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Q2 Report: U.S. Solar Capacity Maintains Growth

The American solar market remains on pace to double last year's installed capacity by the end of 2011 behind large gains in the utility and commercial markets.

According to a report released Tuesday by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. remains poised to install 1,750 megawatts of PV in 2011. The PV market bolstered the second quarter numbers with 314 megawatts of new capacity, a 69 percent rise over the same period last year and a 17 percent jump over the first quarter of 2011.

The utility market saw 37 percent growth in the second quarter while the commercial market increased 22 percent. The residential market fell 5.7 percent, its second straight quarterly drop. The report predicts the residential market will expand in the second half of next year and throughout 2012 as solar-leasing business models spread nationwide.

The spike in installations has coincided with this summer’s widely reported difficulties in domestic manufacturing. A slowdown in global demand led U.S. module production to fall 11 percent from the first quarter to 333 MW.

GTM Research Managing Director Shayle Kann said the potential expiration of the 1603 Treasury program could slow installation growth in 2012. And he pointed to markets in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as areas that may struggle to achieve growth. Still, he says the emergence of large-scale solar should help the U.S. triple its share of global installations over the next four years.

Other key findings include:

  • Cumulative grid-connected PV in the U.S. has now reached 2.7 gigawatts.
  • For the first time, New Jersey's commercial market exceeded California's, making it the largest commercial market in the country.
  • Six states installed more than 10 MW each in the second quarter, compared to only three states in all of 2007.
  • Weaker-than-expected global demand conditions also led to a price decline in Q2, with wafer and cell prices each dropping 25 percent and module prices falling 12 percent on the quarter.
  • In total, more than 600 MW of CSP and CPV are now under construction in the U.S.
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