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Published on August 8th, 2011 | by Andrew


US Solar PV to Double in 2011; Grow 47% a year to 2015

August 8th, 2011 by  

The US solar photovoltaic (PV) market will double in 2011, this despite current economic weakness, according to research from Solarbuzz. With a current project pipeline of more than 17 gigawatts (GW), the Port Washington, NY-based research firm foresees the US solar PV market growing to reach as high as 6.4 GW by 2015 depending on the scenario, a constant annual growth rate of 47%.

Solarbuzz forecasts the US will account for 12% of the global solar PV market by 2015, up from 5%. This would make the US the third-largest solar PV market worldwide, ranking behind Germany and Italy.

2011 growth rates will vary regionally and by market segment with shifts in policy and incentives at the federal, state and local levels of government, but the sharp drop in solar PV prices will underpin growth, according to Solarbuzz’s “United States 2011 PV Market” report.

The annual Congressional argument over renewing federal investment tax and production credits and the Treasury Cash Grants program for solar PV and other renewables will also contribute to second half growth, as utilities and project developers push projects forward in order to ensure they qualify. “Without the extension, less capital will be available for large PV projects held back by a limited tax equity capability,” the researchers note.

“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,” noted Craig Stevens, Solarbuzz president. “This acceleration is being supplemented by explosive utility demand and the rush to install before federal cash grants are scheduled to expire at the end of the year.”

At the state level, growing implementation of Renewable Portfolio Standards requiring utilities to source a stated percentage of their power from renewable sources is driving renewable energy growth. Solar PV market demand by utilities in states where RPSs are in place increased from 17% of on-grid demand in 2009 to 31% in 2010.

California continued to be the dominant US state in terms of solar PV demand, though its share of the market dropped from 50% in 2009 to 30% in 2010. New Jersey, Arizona and Colorado ranked second, third and fourth, respectively.

Looking out five years, state RPSs will be the main factor driving utility solar PV demand to account for nearly 60% of the US on-grid PV market in 2015, Solarbuzz forecasts, adding that strength in the solar PV project pipeline indicates that growth will be sustained over the next few years. There were 30 PV projects over 10 MW started or completed in 2010 as opposed to the previously more typical two or three.

Looking at PV module manufacturing, Chinese manufacturers’ US market share surged in 2010, rising from 11% in 2009 to 37%. “There are now ten major downstream channels to end-market, with 2010 demonstrating strong build in market share of project developers and direct utility procurement,” according to Solarbuzz.

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About the Author

I’ve been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

  • It is great to see solar installations flourishing in this downward spiral economy. Diligent companies are looking towards the future – both financially, and for the planet. We hope it becomes like a snowball down a hill. Our new blog post is on NJ SREC prices, and we think you might find it to be informative. We look forward to following your insight.

  • Anonymous

    In 2009 (2010 numbers not yet released) we had 0.619 GW of solar on line in the US and that produced only 0.02% of our total electricity.

    Just a rough back-of-envelop suggests that we need 50x of the 2009 capacity or about 31GW to reach a 1% power production share. When solar becomes 1% of our total grid supply I think it will be taken a lot more seriously. Right now I see people dismissing solar based on the small roll it is playing.

    That used to be the case for wind power, but with wind now above 2% (2.3% in 2010) wind is getting respect. And shaping the grid mix.

  • Gregory Norminton

    Maybe I’m rather dim, but it seems to me that this post is very unclear. In the first paragraph, does the claim that “the US solar PV market [will] grow… to reach 6.4 GW by 2015” refer to TOTAL installed power, or installations for that one year? If it’s the former, it makes a nonsense of the ’17 GW in the pipeline’ claim.

    Please do better on these facts and figures.

    • Astarloa60

      The 6.4 GW refers to total installed capacity…One hard number for overall US solar PV capacity is actually difficult to find and pin down…Solarbuzz’s 6.4 GW total out of the 17 GW is dependent on events yet to unfold…

      According to Solarbuzz, “Within the next five years, Solarbuzz forecasts the market will grow to up to 6.4 GW depending on the scenario, representing a CAGR of up to 47%, underpinned by a current project pipeline of over 17 GW.”

      According to SEIA’s Q1 2011 review, cumulative grid-connected PV in the U.S. totaled over 2.3 GW. Total for off-grid isn’t included in the report.

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