Report finds strong growth in US solar industry

18. July 2011 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Markets & Trends, Top News | By:  Jonathan Gifford

While in many parts of the world the photovoltaic and wider solar industry has had a rocky ride in 2011, in the U.S. it remains one of the strongest growing industries. As the market matures, declining module prices and streamlined project development and installations are behind the growth.

A photovoltaic installation being installed onto a rooftop.

Photovoltaic growth continues in the U.S., attracting manufacturing, creating jobs and expanding installed capacity. Image: Flickr/US Wayne National Forest.

In first quarter 2011 (Q1 2011) 252 megawatts (MW) of grid connected photovoltaics were installed, the report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research has found, which represents a 66 percent increase over Q1 2010.

The "U.S. Solar Market Insight TM" report, released late last week as the Intersolar North America convection closed, found that the growth in capacity was evident across all three photovoltaic market sectors: residential, commercial and utility. Of these, commercial installations showed the strongest growth.

"On the whole, the U.S. is currently the PV industry's most attractive and stable growth market," said Shayle Kann from GTM Research. "The U.S [is] positioned to nearly double its global market share in 2011," Kann continued in a statement delivering the report’s findings.

Only last week, a report by the Brookings Institute found that the "green sector" is also proving to be a major employer in the U.S., with the total number of "green collar" jobs outnumbering those in oil and gas.

The U.S. photovoltaic market remains concentrated in a few key states, this latest GTM Research report has also found, with this trend deepening. While 82 percent of total installations occurred in just seven states in Q1 2010, one year later that figure had growth to 88 percent.

U.S. module production was also observed to have increased by 31 percent since Q1 2010 in the report. "With analysts predicting the U.S. to become the world's largest solar market within the next few years, manufacturers are increasingly looking to the U.S. to site their facilities," said Tom Kimbis from SEIA. "They are finding significant value in manufacturing close to their expected source of demand."

As evidence of this trend, late last week China Sunergy announced the opening of its U.S. office in San Francisco and the appointment of a U.S. management team. The vertically integrated Chinese photovoltaic manufacturer also indicated that it would be exploring opportunities to open manufacturing facilities there also.

Concentrating solar power (CSP) market was also analysed in the report however no CSP projects were completed in Q1 2011. There are presently 1.1 gigawatts (GW) of CSP projects are currently under construction with a number having receivied Department of Energy loan guarantees.

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