More than 6.4 GW Solar Electric Capacity Installed in US

by | Dec 17, 2012

The US solar photovoltaics market installed 684 MW in the third quarter of 2012, representing 44 percent growth over the same period last year, according to a report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

US Solar Market Insight: Third Quarter 2012 says this quarter marked the third largest on record for the US PV industry and raised the total installed capacity through the first three quarters of the year to 1,992 MW — already surpassing 2011’s annual total of 1,885 MW.

Cumulatively, there are now 5.9 GW of PV from more than 271,000 installations, the report says. Combined with concentrating solar power (CSP) facilities, there are more than 6.4 GW of solar electric capacity installed in the US.

The residential PV sector installed more than 118 MW, an all-time high for a quarter, while the non-residential (commercial, governmental and industrial) market installed 257 MW, rising 24 percent above last quarter (see chart), according to SEIA and GTM Research.

System prices for PV projects in the US continued their downward trajectory in third quarter 2012. Average non-residential prices declined 15 cents per watt, falling to $4.18. Average utility system prices, which are currently at $2.40 per watt, continue to see the greatest reduction in prices, falling by 30 percent since third quarter last year.

The report says developers completed 21 utility projects (or phases of projects) in Q3, ranging from 300 kW to 115 MW. Currently, 2.1 GWdc of utility PV projects are operating in the US, while 10 GW of projects with PPAs are not yet operating. Of this 10 GW, the report says 3 GW comes from the 10 largest projects in construction, all of which will be selling power to utilities in California.

And while no additional CSP capacity was in stalled in the third quarter, the report notes key developments including:

  • All phases of BrightSource’s Ivanpah project are expected online in 2013.
  • Abengoa’s Solana Generating Station is more than 75 percent complete and expected online in summer 2013.
  • PPA discussions continue with Tri-State and Xcel Energy for the 200 MWac Saguache project in Colorado.
  • The California Public Utilities Commission unanimously approved an amended PPA for BrightSource’s Sonoran West project.

Historically, Q4 has been the strongest for PV installations in the US, SEIA says. In 2010 and 2011, Q4 represented 41 percent and 42 percent of annual installations, respectively. US Solar Market Insight forecasts a similar Q4 bump in 2012 with approximately 1,200 MW to be installed.

That would account for 38 percent of 2012’s forecasted total, and be the largest single quarter on record for the US PV market to date. SEIA and GTM Research expect 2012 growth to top 70 percent with a record 3.2 GW of solar installed.

According to SEIA’s 2012 Q2 report, the US solar industry installed 742 MW of solar power last quarter, led by 477 MW of utility-scale installations.


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