US corporations heat up solar market

The U.S. solar industry smashed the record for new installations last year, deploying 1,855 megawatts of new solar PV capacity, more than doubling the previous annual record of 887 MW recorded during 2010.

According to the latest U.S. SolarMarket Insight report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and analyst firm GTM Research, new installations grew 109 per cent in 2011, marking the first time the industry has deployed more than a gigawatt of new capacity in a single year.

The report also revealed that the fourth quarter alone saw 755 MW of new capacity installed, up 115 percent year-on-year, as households and businesses rushed to complete solar projects ahead of the anticipated expiration of the U.S. government's 1603 Treasury grant program.

The market is being driven in large part by businesses and utilities deploying solar technologies as a means of curbing their carbon emissions and diversifying their energy supplies.

Around 800 MW of new capacity was installed by the commercial sector, driven by soaring demand in California and New Jersey, while utility scale projects provided a further 758 MW of new capacity, nearly triple the level added in 2010. In contrast, only 297 MW of new capacity was added by residential installations.

"In 2011, the market demonstrated why the U.S. is becoming a center of attention for global solar," Shayle Kann, managing director of GTM Research's solar practice, said in a statement. "It was the first year with meaningful volumes of large-scale PV installations; there were 28 individual PV projects over 10MW in 2011, up from only two in 2009. Furthermore, the market continued to diversify nationally; eight states installed more than 50MW of solar each last year, compared to just five in 2010. These are all indicators of a vibrant market."

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