3rd Quarter U.S. Solar Energy Growth Highlighted by PV, Record Residential Installs
Clean Edge News
GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®) recently released the U.S. Solar Market Insight: Third Quarter 2012. The report finds that the U.S. solar photovoltaics (PV) market installed 684 megawatts (MW) in the third quarter (Q3) of 2012, representing 44 percent growth over the same period last year. This quarter marked the third largest on record for the U.S. PV industry and raised the total installed capacity through the first three quarters of the year to 1,992 MW — already surpassing 2011’s annual total of 1,885 MW.
Cumulatively, there are now 5.9 gigawatts (GW) of PV, which converts sunlight directly to electricity, operating in the U.S. from more than 271,000 installations. Combined with concentrating solar power facilities (CSP), which convert the sun’s heat to electricity, there are more than 6.4 GW of solar electric capacity installed in the U.S., enough to power more than one million average American households.
The third quarter featured strong growth in distributed generation (DG) markets; the residential PV sector installed more than 118 MW, an all-time high for a quarter, while the commercial market (including governmental and institutional facilities) hit 257 MW, rising 24 percent above last quarter.
In addition to solid growth nationally, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania saw growth of 5 MW or greater compared to the previous quarter. Behind Maryland, Massachusetts saw the greatest quarter-over-quarter increase, up from 25 MW in Q2 2012 to 40 MW this quarter. All Massachusetts installations in Q3 2012 came from the commercial and residential sectors, boosted by the expansion of net metering allowances and an influx of national retailers that offer leasing and other innovative “third-party” ownership models. For the quarter, the top ranked states were California, Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Nevada. As of Sept. 30, top states for total cumulative installed solar electric capacity were: California, New Jersey, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.
The GTM and SEIA research teams expect third-party leased PV systems to remain a hot option in the market for homeowners into 2013 and beyond. During this quarter, residential PV markets in Arizona, Colorado, California, and Massachusetts saw third-party systems range from 57 to 91 percent of total residential system installations.
“While Q3 2012 was remarkable for the U.S. PV market, it is just the opening act for what we expect to see in Q4,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM. “We forecast more than 1.2 GW of PV to be installed next quarter on the back of developers who are pushing to meet year-end deadlines in both the utility and commercial segments. We also expect to see the residential PV market post another record number in Q4, as third-party residential installers gain more traction in mature, cost-effective markets.”
System prices for PV projects in the U.S. continued their downward trajectory in third quarter 2012. Average residential system prices dropped quarter-over-quarter from $5.45 per watt to $5.21 per watt nationally while average non-residential prices declined 15 cents per watt, falling to $4.18. Average utility system prices, which are currently at $2.40 per watt, continue to see the greatest reduction in prices of the three market segments covered, falling by 30 percent since third quarter last year.
Commercial installations grew 24 percent in third quarter over second quarter in 2012, led by notable growth in California and Massachusetts; a strong fourth quarter is also expected for this market.
Today, the U.S. solar energy industry employs 119,000 Americans at 5,600 companies, mostly small businesses, across all 50 states.