SEIA: Installed Solar in U.S. to Surpass 1 GW by 2011

Solar installations in the U.S.—both photovoltaic and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations—grew 114% in 2009, and by the year’s end, they could surpass 1 GW, a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says.

The industry group’s “U.S. Solar Market Insight” report with data for the first half of 2010 shows that 441 MW of solar electric capacity was added in 2009, and it forecasts as much as 1.13 GW being installed by the end of 2010—a 156% increase.

California led states for solar electric capacity installed in the first six months of 2010 with 120 MW, followed by New Jersey, Arizona, and Florida. In total, 341 MW were installed in the first half of the year. “The report projects a stronger second half for 2010 because of one large CSP project, a number of large PV projects, and continued strength in the residential and non-residential markets,” SEIA said in a statement accompanying the report’s release.

PV Market Spurts 69% per Year on Average

According to SEIA, the U.S. PV market grew, on average, at annual rate of 69% over the last decade, from 3.9 MW in 2000 to 435 MW in 2009. But the U.S. market made up only 6.5% of global PV demand in 2009, it said, putting it behind Germany, Italy, and Japan. Among factors that contributed to this growth were the drastic decline in 2009 of module prices, continued tax credits, and expanding state-level targets for solar power.

In 2009, module prices fell more than 50%, mostly because of a glut in supply caused by the global economic slowdown and reduced incentives in Spain. SEIA said that system prices also declined—though more slowly—while component pricing stabilized due to the rapid demand growth in markets such as in Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic.

Over 23,000 PV systems were installed in the first half of the year, including an “unprecedented” 22 utility projects, which compares to roughly 28,000 systems installed in all of 2009, SEIA’s report said. “In total, over 120,000 systems have been connected to the grid in the United States through the [first] half of 2010, including over 100,000 residential systems.”

SEIA expects that global demand for PV installations in key markets in 2010 will increase by more than 80% year-over-year. “As a consequence, manufacturing activity for all ‘bankable’ manufacturers has been robust, and many suppliers reported being sold out for 2010 as early as the [first] quarter,” it said.

U.S. Regaining Leadership of CSP Sector

The organization claims that 46 CSP projects—a combined 10 GW—are in the pipeline, and this could allow the U.S. to take the reins as CSP leader from Spain, whose feed-in-tariff program allowed that country to develop more than 400 MW of operating CSP capacity.

In the first half of 2010, two CSP projects came online: the 1.5 MW Tessera/Stirling Maricopa Dish-Engine project in Arizona, and the 1-MW Abengoa Solar Cameo Hybrid plant (also known as the Colorado Integrated Solar Project). The growth is spectacular, the group notes, especially since the “CSP industry in the U.S. was essentially dormant from 1992 to 2006.”

Since 2006, only one project came online—a 64-MW trough plant in Nevada in 2007. However, in the last three years, the U.S. saw small demonstration plants for various technologies: a 5-MW Concentrating Linear Fresnel Reflector plant in California in 2008, a 5-MW tower plant in California in 2009, and a 1-MW micro-CSP plant in Hawaii in 2009.

Installed prices per watt for CSP plants could not be determined from the plants finished in 2010: The Maricopa plant was a demonstration facility and its costs were not indicative of the cost per watt of a 100-plus MW facility, the group said.

“The expected cost for a dish-engine project at utility scale is in the range of $3.00/[Watt per acre (Wac)]-$4.50/Wac. In the case of the Cameo project, the costs per watt are understated relative to standalone trough projects as the Cameo solar field acts as a booster to an existing power plant and therefore didn’t require the construction of a power block. A typical cost for a trough plant with wet cooling and no storage would be in the range of $4.50/Wac-$6.00/Wac.”

Sources: SEIA, POWERnews

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