US PV demand to grow 20% to 4.3 GW in 2013


Demand for PV panels in the U.S. is expected to grow significantly this year, reaching a record high of 4.3 GW, an increase of nearly 20% compared to 2012, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly.

PV demand in the U.S. currently accounts for more than 12% of annual global demand compared to just 5% three years ago.

NPD Solarbuzz estimates demand in the second quarter of 2013 to reach 1 GW, with more than 70% coming from California, Arizona, New Jersey and North Carolina.

Demand for residential and small commercial rooftop PV installations will account for 18%, with another 14% from large commercial rooftops. The utility-dominated ground-mount segment is expected to make up the remaining 68% of new PV demand this quarter.

Large utility-based solar PV projects in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas will drive U.S. demand above 2.5 GW during the second half of 2013. Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, and Ohio will also deliver strong year-end contributions. PV demand in the U.S. is forecast to exceed 5 GW in 2014, representing a 70% compound annual growth rate since 2009.

"The strong commercial and utility-based solar PV being deployed in the U.S. is stimulated by state specific mandates that require solar to meet target levels, or carve-outs, of total energy production," said NPD Solarbuzz analyst Chris Sunsong, adding that new third-party ownership models that allow homeowners and businesses to install PV systems with minimal upfront commitments were driving residential demand.

New solar PV incentive policies and additional utility-scale projects are also starting to diversify PV demand across a greater number of U.S. states, moving away from "the traditional strongholds limited to the East and West Coasts," according to the NPD Solarbuzz report.

Six of the 10 fastest-growing U.S. states for solar PV demand in 2013 are located in the South and the Midwest, providing annual growth rates averaging above 180%.

The U.S. PV market remains heavily dependent on strong demand from a small group of states, according to NPD Solarbuzz. Just nine states will account for more than 85% of all U.S. PV demand in 2013. As a result, the U.S. market remains highly vulnerable to any abrupt policy changes in the leading PV states.

"The success of federal incentives and aggressive renewable portfolio standards that were intended to stimulate domestic solar PV installations in the U.S. is now coming under increased scrutiny at the state level," Sunsong added. "Additionally, states such as New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania that are heavily dependent on solar renewable energy certificates, or SRECs, are at risk of continued over-supply that threatens to limit new solar PV investments."