US: 99% of installed PV systems in 2012 were net-metered projects

There were three main trends identified by SEPA this year. For the first time ever, annual solar capacity surpassed 2 GW, reaching 2.4 GW. The total installed capacity is now said to be 6.1 GW. The second trend found was in the utility-scale photovoltaic market, which recorded a 46% rise in annual capacity. Last year, 1.1 GW were added, a 250% increase over 2011.

The last trend detected was the sustained growth of net-metering projects which, at 1.15 GW, accounted for 99% of all installed photovoltaic systems in 2012. Currently, there are about 3.5 GW of net-metered projects in the country.

The data analyzed in this report includes two categories: the megawatts measuring utility’s solar capacity; and the installed solar watts-per-customer. In 2012, it took a minimum of 65 MW to make the megawatt rankings list, compared to 45 MW in 2011, and just 20 MW in 2010.

With respect to the solar utility megawatt ranking, topping the list is Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) with 805.6 MW installed, followed by Southern California Edison (SCE) with 194.6 MW. Ranked third is Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) with 144.5 MW, and along with Jersey Central Power & Light and Progress Carolinas, was one of three utilities from the east coast present in the top ten. Municipal Utility District (SMUD) was the only municipal utility to make this year’s top 10 MW list, taking the ninth spot with nearly 70 MW.

In the watts-per-customer category, the municipal utility for the City of St. Marys (OH) ranked first nationally with nearly 563 watts per customer (w/c).

Second, with 282 w/c, was Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, after adding more than 9 MW of new capacity to their grid in 2012. Following in third place was Bryan Municipal Utilities, located in Ohio, with 276 w/c, after installing a 2 MW utility-owned PV project.

A newcomer was Ohio, driven by solar initiatives from American Municipal Power. It tied with Hawaii, for the state that contributed the most utilities to the Watt-per-Customer Top 10 list. They contributed three utilities respectively.

The requirement this year to enter the top ten ranking nearly doubled, climbing to 162 w/c. The utilities in this ranking were smaller than those in the Solar Megawatts category, with an average of 29,000 customers, and were more diverse by geography and utility type.

These rankings cover 96% of the U.S. solar power market, including photovoltaic and CSP projects. The full report will be published at the end of May.