US: Falling prices, strong incentives and policies boost PV growth

Supported by incentives and policies on federal, state and local levels, the U.S. photovoltaic market remains strong although the growth varies greatly between market segments. The recent Solarbuzz report into the U.S. market forecasts that it will become the third largest – with 12 percent of the global market share – in 2011, behind Germany and Italy.

Solarbuzz President Craig Stevens explained that, "with rapid declines in factory gate prices over the past eight weeks as manufacturers and distributors focus on depleting module inventories, demand has picked up across residential, corporate and government segments". Strong demand from utilities for renewable energy and the incentive to finish installations before federal grants expire at the end of the year are further feeding growth.

Schemes such as the federal Investment Tax Credit and Treasury Cash Grants have been stimulating investment in the field as have state-based Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) which require utilities to purchase a certain amount of their energy from renewable sources such as photovoltaics. This latter demand source has seen the utility-scale market segment expand from 17 percent in 2009 to 31 percent in 2010. Large projects of more than 10 megawatts (MW) have also been seen to increase, with their number growing three-fold in 2010 to over 30 projects.

Solarbuzz, in its United States 2011 PV Market report released in June of this year, forecasts utility demand for photovoltaic generated electricity to account for almost 60 percent of the on-grid market by 2015.

Chinese module manufacturers have been observed by Solarbuzz to be the beneficiaries of this growth in demand, with their market share growing from 11 precent in 2009 to 37 percent in 2010.

Solarbuzz sees the extension of the federal Treasury Cash Grant as being crucial to future utility-scale growth. Its forecast for the annual photovoltaic market in 2015 is growth of 6.5 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity.