During the first 6 months of 2013, solar installations have reached a total of 1.8 GW according to the NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Market Quarterly report. The estimated total installations will reach just under 4.5GW by the end of the year.
The growth in PV cannot be ignored, with total installations reaching 3.3GW in 2012 and 2.8 in 2011. There is tangible progress being made in the solar field.
With the 10-GW milestone in hand, the U.S. solar PV market isn't looking back. The market is expected to hit 17 GW by the end of 2014, representing 80 percent growth over 18 months.Solar PV has been one of the fastest growing energy sources in the US over the past six years, with a compound annual growth rate of over 50% since 2007.
Map shows the distribution of 10GW PV installations regionally.
Besides individual state support schemes, what's driving the U.S. solar market? From one perspective, U.S. residential solar demand continues to surge, and third-party-owned solar residential in particular. System pricing declines also are playing a major role, especially driving the utility segment. SEIA/GTM numbers for 1Q13 showed system price-points for utility-scale solar at $2.14/W and residential systems at $4.93/W; SolarBuzz ballparks residential solar PV at around $4.25/W and large utility-scale PV projects at around $3/W.
Worldwide solar PV demand reached 15 GW through the first six months of this year, roughly a 9 percent increase from a year ago, and cumulative solar PV installations are about 116.5 GW, according to SolarBuzz. In each scenario, more than half (60 percent) comes from four countries: Germany, China, Japan, and the U.S.; in cumulative capacity only Japan is close to them, and Spain and France are distant at around 4.5 GW and 4 GW respectively. In the second half of this year, China and Japan should account for over half of the solar demand all by themselves. By contrast, in 2H12 Europe made up half of global demand, and three years ago China and Japan contributed less than 10 percent of second-half-annual demand, according to the firm.
Note that Japan, which is an exceptionally productive year in terms of solar progress, is catching up fast behind the U.S. in solar PV capacity and could top 10 GW cumulative in the next couple of months. What's driving the Japanese market these days is the non-residential feed-in tariff, which is helping the utility segment really take off, Barker said. Japan has kept up a good pace of implementing projects "relatively rapidly" but there are signs that the processes are slowing a bit, he noted.