WASHINGTON — The U.S. Solar Market Insight: Q1 2012 report, released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA®) and GTM Research, finds that growth in solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in the United States is sustaining its strong pace from 2011. Led by growth in the commercial market, the U.S. installed a record 506 megawatts (MW) over the first three months of this year, more than any other first quarter on record, according to the organizations.

The report says the total amount of solar PV across the nation now stands at 4,427 MW. In addition, concentrating solar power (CSP) facilities are providing 516 MW of electric power. Together, solar electric capacity reached 4,943 MW in the U.S., which is enough to power 775,000 households.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA, said, “Installations have grown by 85 percent in the last year. This growth is coming from consumers who are turning to solar to reduce their energy costs. In states across the country, Americans are waking up to the realization that putting solar on your home or business is a better investment than the stock market.”

The U.S. Solar Market Insight report forecasts total 2012 solar PV installations to exceed 3,200 megawatts, 75 percent greater than last year’s total and 15 percent higher than previous forecasts for 2012.

The organizations indicated that the increase in forecasted installations for 2012 is due to accelerated timelines for large-scale utility projects, greater-than-expected first quarter growth in New Jersey’s commercial market, the number of safe-harbored projects that will still qualify for the federal government’s expired 1603 Treasury Program, and positive outlooks for the California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii markets.

While the demand for solar energy in the U.S. grows, and the cost of installed solar falls, the report says U.S. solar panel manufacturers continue to face increased global competition as well as uncertainty surrounding global trade disputes. In the first quarter of 2012, U.S. solar panel production amounted to just 160 MW compared to 335 megawatts in the first quarter of 2011.

Publication date: 7/9/2012