The U.S. solar energy industry is celebrating today after a new report found installations grew by 109% last year to 1,855 megawatts of installed capacity – easily doubling the previous record of 887MW set in 2010.
The record figures are from the latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, prepared for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) by GTM Research.
Plummeting prices for PV systems and related components – which fell 20% in 2011 – saw the sector install over one gigawatt of solar power capacity for the first time.
The SEIA estimates the U.S. solar market’s total value surpassed $8.4 billion in 2011, leading SEIA president Rhone Resch to once again dub the American solar industry the fastest growing sector in the national economy.
The fourth quarter of 2011 also saw the close of the U.S. government’s generous 1603 Treasury Loans Program, prompting a rush on financing for large-scale solar projects, which resulted in 775MW of solar power being installed in Q4 alone – up 115% from Q4 2010.
There were over 61,000 individual PV systems installed in the U.S. in 2011, bringing the total number of operating systems in the nation to more than 214,000.
The report illustrates the power of PV-based solar power in America over the past 12 months. In 2011, several massive solar farms in the south-west switched from concentrated solar thermal power to PV technology, predominantly due to cost factors.
Although no new solar thermal plants were brought online in 2011, a total of 10 concentrated solar PV (CSP) farms were switched on. By 2013, it is anticipated CSP will make significant progress in the market.
"Today, more than 1,000 MW of CSP are under construction, enough to power 200,000 homes," the report states.
"The solar industry is the fastest growing industry in America for the second year in a row. What we are seeing in the U.S. is that policies are working to open new markets and remove barriers for solar," said Resch. "The industry is now poised for years of multi-gigawatt growth and the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs."