US overtakes Germany for the first time in 15 years in solar installations

2013 Q3 is the second largest quarter in the history of the US solar market and the largest quarter ever for residential PV installations. Even more importantly, 2013 is likely to be the first time in more than 15 years that the US has installed more solar capacity than world leader Germany.

Solar PowerAccording to solar industry research analyst's firm GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, the US installed 930 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaics (PV) in Q3 2013, up 20 per cent over Q2 2013 and 35 per cent over Q3 2012.

This represents the second-largest quarter in the history of the US solar market and the largest quarter ever for residential PV installations.

Even more importantly, 2013 is likely to be the first time in more than 15 years that the US has installed more solar capacity than world leader Germany, according to GTM Research forecasts.

SEIA and GTM Research forecast that an additional 1,780 MW of PV and 800 MW of concentrating solar (CSP) will be installed in the fourth quarter of 2013 alone, bringing the total for the year to over 5,000 MW of new solar electric capacity.

They study by the two bodies noted, "As we approach the end of 2013, it remains clear that this will be a banner year for solar in the United States. Installations have already surpassed the 10 GW cumulative mark, and by the end of the year, more than 400,000 individual solar projects will be operating across the country. We forecast that, by year's end, installations will have grown 27 per cent relative to 2012, with an even more impressive 52 per cent growth rate in the residential sector alone."

''Solar is the second-largest source of new electricity capacity in the US this year, trailing only natural gas," said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM. "As solar continues its march toward ubiquity, the market will require continued innovation, efficiency improvement and regulatory clarity. But already the groundwork has been laid for a mainstream solar future."

At the state-level, California continued to lead the solar PV charge, installing 455 MW in Q3. North Carolina moved into the number three spot in total PV installations with 23 per cent growth over last quarter. Other movers and shakers on the state rankings list include Nevada (moving from 17 to 5) and Vermont (from 21 to 12).

Key Findings:

  • Photovoltaic (PV) installations reached 930 MW in Q3 2013, up 20% over Q2 2013. This represents the second-largest quarter for solar installations in U.S. history
  • While the utility solar sector represented more than half of new PV capacity installed, the residential market showed significant growth and posted the segment's largest quarter in history with 186 MW installed
  • The non-residential sector has suffered from a number of contracting state markets and we anticipate a flat 2013; however, we expect a strong resumption of growth in 2014
  • 2013 may be the first year in more than a decade in which the U.S. installs more solar capacity than Germany
  • Blended average PV system prices fell 4.2 per cent in Q3 2013 compared to the previous quarter, reaching a new low of $3.00/W
  • We forecast that the U.S. will install a total of 4.3 GW of new PV in 2013, up 27 per cent over 2012
  • The wave of concentrating solar power installations slated for completion at the end of this year kicked off with the 280 MWac Solana project, which came online in October 2013

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