Despite the Great Recession of 2009, the U.S. solar energy industry grew— both in new installations and employment. Total U.S. solar electric capacity from photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies climbed past 2,000 MW, enough to serve more than 350,000 homes. Total U.S. solar thermal capacity approached 24,000 MWth.1
A doubling in size of the residential PV market and three new CSP plants helped lift the U.S. solar electric market 37 percent in annual installations over 2008 from 351 MW in 2008 to 481 MW in 2009. Solar water heating (SWH) installations managed 10 percent year-over-year growth, while the solar pool heating (SPH) market suffered along with the broader construction industry, dropping 10 percent. Solar industry revenues also surged despite the economy, climbing 36 percent in 2009.
Another sign of continued optimism in solar energy: venture capitalists invested more in solar technologies than any other clean technology in 2009. In total, $1.4 billion in venture capital flowed to solar companies in 2009.2
Solar provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) got off to a slow start but continue to ease the pressures of the credit crisis. As of early February 2010, more than 46 MW of solar capacity has been deployed with the help of the Section 1603 Treasury grants in lieu of the investment tax credit (ITC). Solar equipment manufacturers have been awarded $600 million in manufacturing tax credits under ARRA, representing investments in new and upgraded factories of more than $2 billion. For an industry that had a total U.S. volume of roughly $4 billion, this signals huge optimism about near-term growth.
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