US installs "record" amount of PV in Q1; to exceed 3.2 GW in 2012

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Based on the latest figures, cumulative photovoltaic installations in the U.S. have now reached 4.43 gigawatts (GW). Meanwhile, concentrating solar power (CSP) facilities are said to account for a further 516 megawatts (MW).

Overall, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research predict that 3.2 GW worth of new installations will be added in 2012, which would represent a 75 percent increase on 2011.

The expected increase has been attributed to "accelerated timelines for large-scale utility projects, greater-than-expected first quarter growth in the New Jersey commercial market, the number of safe-harbored projects that will still qualify for the U.S. governmentÂ’s expired 1603 Treasury Program, and overall positive outlooks for the California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii markets."

Having beaten the usual state leader, California, New Jersey recorded the most new photovoltaic installations in Q1, with 174 MW.

Uncertainty

Despite the positive news, SEIA and GTM said that not all is sunny. The impacts of the U.S.-China trade case will be most noticeable in 2013, as will the expiration of the grant program. "However," said Shayle Kann, VP at GTM Research, "we expect the U.S. market to regain momentum thereafter and continue along its path to become a global PV market leader by 2015."

Furthermore, the two parties said that increased global competition and the uncertainty surrounding the global trade disputes are proving difficult for U.S. manufacturers. In Q1, they stated, U.S. photovoltaic module production amounted to 160 MW compared to 335 MW in Q1 2011.

Meanwhile, Q1 2012 blended module prices were said to be down to US$0.94 per Watt, "a staggering" 47 percent lower than Q1 2011 levels of $1.78 per Watt.

"The U.S. solar industry continues to lead the U.S. out of difficult economic times," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. "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."

GTM Research and SEIA will release their latest U.S. solar market insight report tomorrow, June 14.

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