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US solar PV grew 69% in Q2 2011

The US solar PV market grew 69% in the second quarter (Q2) this year over the same period last year with the installation of 314 MW.

By Kari Williamson

Compared to Q1, the solar PV market grew 17%, and the total for 2011 is set to reach 1750 MW – double from last year, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)'s latest quarterly US Solar Market Insight report.

"The second quarter data illustrates that the U.S. solar industry continues to be one of the fastest growing in America," says Rhone Resch, President and CEO of SEIA.

"More than 100,000 Americans are employed in solar, twice as many as in 2009. They work at more than 5000 companies – the vast majority being small businesses – across all 50 states."

The utility and commercial solar PV market segments grew 37% and 22% respectively in the second quarter.

Residential solar PV, however, struggled for the second consecutive quarter, installing 60 MW, down 5.7% over last quarter. Greater traction is expected, however, in the second half of 2011 and into 2012 due to the expansion of residential solar-leasing business models.

Large CSP and CPV pipeline

Over 600 MW of concentrating solar – including concentrating solar power (CSP) and concentrating PV (CPV) – are under construction in the US, and the segment has a pipeline of 7 GW, of which 4 GW have already signed power purchase agreements (PPAs).

Resch adds: "The dynamic second quarter growth is a result of increased competition in the solar market, competition that drove down the price of solar panels by 30% since the beginning of 2010.

"This is good news for residential and business customers as solar becomes more affordable every day."


"The potential expiration of the 1603 Treasury program, along with current malaise in major markets such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania, threatens to slow growth in 2012," says Shayle Kann, Managing Director of Solar at GTM Research.

"Still, with increasing market diversity and the continued emergence of the utility-scale solar market, we anticipate that the US market share of global installations will triple over the next four years."

Key findings:

Solar PV:
  • Grid-connected solar PV installations grew 69% in Q2 over 2010 and 17% over Q1 2011 to 314 MW;
  • Cumulative grid-connected solar PV in the US has reached 2.7 GW;
  • New Jersey's commercial market now exceeds California's;
  • Six states installed over 10 MW each in Q2 2011, compared to only three states in all of 2007;
  • A slowdown in global demand led to a 11% module production fall in the US to 333 MW from Q1; and
  • Wafer and cell prices fell 25% and module prices 12% due to weaker-than-expected global demand.
  • Phase I of the 484 MW Blythe trough plant is switching from CSP to PV;
  • The 30 MW Alamosa CPV plant has begun construction with completion slated for end of 2011;
  • The combined CSP and CPV pipeline is over 7 GW in the US, of which 4 GW have signed PPAs; and
  • Over 600 MW of CSP and CPV are now under construction in the US.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity