When it comes to renewable energy, you could call it the “shot heard round the world.”
According to a new report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. installed 930 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaics (PV) in Q3 2013, up 20 percent over Q2 2013 and 35 percent over Q3 2012. This represents the second largest quarter in the history of the U.S. solar market and the largest quarter ever for residential PV installations.
Even more importantly, 2013 is likely to be the first time in more than a decade that the U.S. installs more solar capacity than world leader Germany. Since 2005 – just before the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was enacted – cumulative PV installations in the U.S. have grown from 171 MW to a “no-one-expected this” 10,200 MW through Q3 of this year. As the Germans would say: Wunderbar!
FIGURE: Cumulative PV Installations by Quarter, U.S. vs. Germany
Source: U.S. Solar Market Insight Q3 2013
When all of the numbers are finally in, 2013 will go down as a record-shattering year for the U.S. solar industry. We’ve now joined Germany, China and Japan as worldwide leaders when it comes to the installation of new solar capacity.
This unprecedented growth is helping to create thousands of American jobs, save money for U.S. consumers and reduce pollution nationwide. When it comes to preparing for America’s future, clean, dependable and affordable solar energy has become the “Little Engine That Could,” defying expectations and powering economic growth – and, frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our industry’s enormous potential.
But let’s take some time to soak up what’s happened this year. Most impressively, the residential market continues its rapid growth. Through Q3, residential PV installations were up 45 percent year-over-year, driven largely by increasingly attractive economics and fair net metering policies.
The utility market continues its steady ascent, as well, and is forecasted to exceed 1 gigawatt (GW) of installed capacity in the fourth quarter, including Abengoa’s Solana, the world’s largest parabolic trough concentrating solar power (CSP) plant. This will be the first time any individual market segment has hit that mark.
The non-residential (commercial) market, on the other hand, remains pretty much flat over last year – although blue chip companies like Walmart, Costco, Kohl’s, Apple and IKEA continue to invest heavily in solar.
But here’s the real takeaway: When you add all segments of the industry together, solar is the second-largest source of new electricity capacity in the U.S. this year, trailing only natural gas.
The U.S. Solar Market Insight: 3rd Quarter 2013 predicts that 5.1 GW of PV and CSP will be installed this year. Cumulative capacity has already surpassed the 10 GW threshold, which means solar is now generating enough electricity to effectively power more than 1.7 million homes across the United States.
Here are some other key findings of the report:
- Strong growth is forecast for the non-commercial market in 2014.
- Blended average PV system prices fell 4.2 percent in Q3 2013 compared to the previous quarter, reaching a new low of $3.00/W.
- The U.S. is expected to install a total of 4.3 GW of new PV in 2013 – up 27 percent over 2012.
- The 392 MW Ivanpah CSP project, one of the largest solar projects in the world, is scheduled to begin delivering electricity to the grid before the end of 2013.
According to yet another new report, FERC’s Energy Infrastructure Update, a whopping 99.3 percent of all new electric generation placed in service during the month of October came from renewables – with solar leading the way by a country mile!
Twelve new solar units accounted for 504 MW or 72.1 percent of all new capacity in October. This is really remarkable, not to mention historic, and should serve as a reminder to everyone in Washington and our state capitals that smart public policies – such as the solar ITC, Net Energy Metering (NEM) and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) – are paying huge dividends for America.
And if that news doesn’t make you smile during the holidays, then here’s one other thing to remember – 2014 looks even better for solar!
Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO