New report shows U.S. solar industry grew 69 percent year-over-year

New report shows U.S. solar industry grew 69 percent year-over-yearThe U.S. solar industry continued its mercurial growth trend throughout the first half of 2011, with photovoltaic installations growing 69 percent in the first half of 2011 compared to 2010, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight quarterly report released Sept. 20.

“Our second quarter report shows that the industry grew by 69 percent, making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy. And I challenge people out there to find another industry that's growing close to 70 percent each year,” said the Solar Energy Industries Association’s President Rhone Resch during a teleconference about the event.

During the first half of 2011, nearly 575 megawatts of photovoltaics were installed, with 17 percent more—a total of 314 megawatts—being installed in the second quarter according to the report, which was produced by GTM Research for the SEIA.

Like last year, growth is set to accelerate throughout the rest of 2011, with a total of 1,750 megawatts slated for installation in the U.S. in 2011.

“Double last year’s total and enough to power 350,000 homes,” SEIA said in a press release.

“Altogether, solar electric power installations in the U.S. now exceed 3,100 megawatts, which is enough power for more than 630,000 homes,” Resch said.

With continued quarter-over-quarter growth, the country is closing the gap with larger markets, according to Resch.

“The U.S. markets are expanding and heading toward becoming the largest in the world, and our goal is certainly to surpass Germany and Italy and some of those markets that are larger than us today,” he said. “The resilience and the core stability of this market is remarkable given the economic conditions that exist today.”

He said that one of the country’s strengths is the solar market’s diversity.

“Despite a slight decrease in residential installations in this quarter over last, the U.S. market supports three vibrant growing segments, residential, commercial and utility-scale,” he said.

As more solar is added into the U.S. energy mix, the markets are changing, according to Resch.

“For instance, New Jersey's aggressive policies have finally succeeding in bumping California from its top spot in the commercial market for the very first time,” he said. “New Jersey's commercial capacity grew by 170 percent in Q2 over the first quarter of this year.”

Report author and Managing Director of Solar at GTM Research Shayle Kann agreed.

“It is very notable that the New Jersey commercial market exceeded that of California,” he said. “We've never seen a market exceed California in the commercial sector ever before, and it just goes to show that the market is expanding beyond California.”

California’s solar market as recently as 2005 was 80 percent of the total solar market in the U.S. It’s now closer to 30 percent.

While growth during the first half of the year was large, the industry is projecting larger growth in the second half of the year because of seasonal and other issues, reflecting the growth patterns of previous years.

“In 2010, 41 percent of all installations took place in the fourth quarter,” Kann said. “I will say expectations for the U.S. market are even better [this year], and I think a lot people are hoping the U.S. market will double this year as it did last year when we saw 104 percent growth over the previous year.”

Image courtesy of SEIA.