As New Jersey 'shores up' its PV capacity, California still set to lead US in 2013


Once the dominant player in the United States on-grid PV market, California’s share had gradually declined until recently, as New Jersey and Arizona launched their own, aggressive initiatives to deploy photovoltaic systems and to diversify their energy portfolio.

However, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in the second quarter of 2012, California again led the nation in installed solar capacity, with a total of 217 MW; followed by Arizona, with 173 MW; and New Jersey, with 103 MW. Filling out the top-ten list (numbers four through ten) in descending order were Nevada, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Hawaii. New York came in at number 11.

What’s more, driven by a combination of policy initiatives, California is poised to sustain its newly regained dominant position in the U.S. photovoltaics market in 2013, according to new research from Santa Clara, California-based NPD Solarbuzz. "NPD Solarbuzz projects that California will regain its market share, after seeing declines in 2010 and 2011, and eventually hold more than half of U.S. market share in 2013, thanks to a variety of programs, policies, and regulations that cover the whole spectrum of the PV market including residential, non-residential, and utility segments," commented Junko Movellan, senior analyst for NPD Solarbuzz.

California’s baseline market demand has been supported by the California Solar Initiative (CSI), the nation’s largest rate-payer-funded solar rebate program – serving homeowners who are customers of the investor-owned utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E).

Together with the New Solar Homes Partnership, which provides financial incentives and other support to builders of new, energy efficient solar homes, and a spate of rebate programs offered through the dozens of publicly owned utilities in the state, the CSI program is a key component of the Go Solar California campaign for California.

The CSI offers solar customers different incentive levels based on the performance of their solar panels, including such factors as installation angle, tilt, and location rather than system capacity alone. This performance framework ensures that California is generating clean solar energy and rewarding systems that can provide maximum solar generation.

While CSI has been instrumental in the development of residential and non-residential net-metered systems, California has instituted several other programs to support larger systems to satisfy the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements. California has one of the most ambitious RPS goals in the nation: It requires both public and investor-owned utilities to procure 33 percent of all electricity delivered to retail customers from renewable sources by 2020 (building up from 25 percent by 2016, and 20 percent by 2013).

To meet this requirement, the state’s utilities have solicited and contracted not only large-scale centralized projects, but also mid-size systems, often below 20 MW and interconnected to the distribution grid. Several contracted large-scale projects in California that are under development include the 550 MW-AC Topaz Solar Farm, the 550 MW-AC Desert Sunlight initiative and the 250 MW-AC California Valley Solar Ranch.

Based on findings from NPD Solarbuzz’s "North America PV Markets Quarterly," the California photovoltaics market will experience 60% year-over-year growth in 2012, continuing to lead the nation with its long-term commitment to solar and other renewable and energy-efficient technologies.

Overall, the U.S. solar PV market will grow 51% year-over-year in 2012, but it is projected to experience slower growth in 2013, at 30% year-over-year, due to the over-supply of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) on the East Coast and the expiration of the Treasury Cash Grant program.

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