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The US market for solar PV will double in 2011 despite the hard economic times, as plunging prices and policy incentives underpin growth. A strong project pipeline, and growing demand from utilities, driven by the need to meet Renewable Portfolio Standard targets, will result in constant annual growth rates of 47% out to 2015, according to research from Solarbuzz.

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

The US market for solar PV will double in 2011 despite the hard economic times, as plunging prices and policy incentives underpin growth. A strong project pipeline, and growing demand from utilities, driven by the need to meet Renewable Portfolio Standard targets, will result in constant annual growth rates of 47% out to 2015, according to research from Solarbuzz.

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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