Solar panels were installed on more American residential rooftops in the 3rd Quarter of 2013 than any other quarter in history, pushing US installed solar capacity over the 10-gigawatt (GW) milestone and potentially ahead of Germany for the first time.
This sunny picture comes courtesy of the US Solar Market Insight (SMI) Q3 2013 report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and it shines a spotlight on the economic power of America’s clean energy transition.
Overall solar installation capacity continued to improve quarter-over-quarter across the US, delivering the second-largest quarter of overall installation capacity in the history of America’s solar market.
US Installs 930MW Solar Energy In 3Q, May Pass Germany In 2013
America’s solar industry installed 930 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) panels in Q3 2013, 20% higher than Q2 2013 and 35% higher than Q3 2012. This blistering pace vaults America over the 10 GW capacity mark to reach 10,250 MW overall installed capacity across 400,000 solar projects – enough to power more than 1.7 million average US homes and the emissions equivalent of removing 2.1 million cars from the road.
3Q’s results are remarkable, but the US solar market might just be warming up. The SMI report predicts 1,780 MW of PV solar and 800 MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) will be installed in 4Q 2013, meaning America will install over 5 GW of new solar energy capacity in 2013 – 27% more than 2012 and a new single-year record.
Even more remarkable, SMI’s forecast means the US could install more overall solar capacity in 2013 than Germany, the world’s undisputed solar market leader. Germany is expected to install 4.2 GW new solar capacity this year – not placing first for the first time in 15 years. “Without a doubt, 2013 will go down as a record-shattering year for the US solar industry,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO.
Residential, Utility Installations Lead The Way
Residential solar led the 3Q charge with the market sector’s best-ever quarter, installing 186 MW, up 45% compared to 2012. SMI credits favorable net metering policies for improving the economics of solar PV, but warns declining PV module prices could strain manufacturers while benefiting consumers.
The average price of PV panels have fallen more than 60% since the beginning of 2011 and now stands at a national average of $3.00 per installed watt. “As solar continues its march toward ubiquity, the market will require continued innovation, efficiency improvement and regulatory clarity,” said Shayle Kann, GTM vice president of research.
The utility solar market sector also posted a strong quarter, with 52 projects completed for 539 MW and over half of Q3’s total installed capacity. Unfortunately, the rising tide didn’t raise the boats of every industry sector – the non-residential (commercial) market is expected to remain flat through 2013 but may resume growth in 2014. California continues to lead the US solar PV market with 455 MW installed in Q3, while Arizona placed second with 169 MW installed.
Solar’s Economic Impacts Ripple Across America
But best of all, As we’ve seen time and time again, the transition to a clean energy future also helps create green jobs. America’s solar industry led the US in green job creation during the third quarter, according to a recent report from E2, and had overall ripple effects across the overall economy.
119,000 workers are now employed at 6,100 businesses in the US solar industry, a 13.2% increase over 2011’s employment totals. Solar projects were valued at $11.5 billion by the end of 2012, up from $8.6 billion in 2011, and just $5 billion in 2010. With exponential growth continuing, it’s not hard to expect another overall valuation jump in 2013.
“This unprecedented growth is helping to create thousands of American jobs, save money for US consumers, and reduce pollution nationwide,” said Resch. “Frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our industry’s enormous potential.”
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