The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Five Key Takeaways from the U.S. Solar Market Trends Report

The solar market, while relatively young, is an increasingly important part of the American economy. My latest IREC report answers important questions about the solar market. What are the trends in the market, and what forces are at work? Which sectors of the market are strongest, and why? What are the prospects for solar energy in the near future?

 1.  Photovoltaic markets are growing quickly

Last year was another banner year for solar, with large increases in both the number and average size of photovoltaic (PV) installations. The capacity of PV installations in 2011 more than doubled, compared with 2010 installations. More utility-scale systems and an increase in the average system size accounted for this dramatic growth. The total capacity of utility and nonresidential systems installed in 2011 increased by 145% and 132% respectively compared with 2010.  The average size of all PV installations grew 64% in 2011, to 29 kWDC.

Fig. 2: Annual Installed Grid-Connected PV Capacity by Sector (2002-2011)

2.  Installations are concentrated in a few states

In 2011, more than two-thirds of grid-connected PV system installations were concentrated in California, New Jersey, Arizona and New Mexico, as shown. Of the top 10 states, Arizona had the highest growth, with more than 4.5 times as many installations as the year before. The market more than tripled in New Mexico and New York, and more than doubled in California, New Jersey and Hawaii. On a per capita basis, six states — Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, New Jersey and New Mexico — had more installations than California in 2011, demonstrating how the market is diversifying across the country.


2011 Rank by State



1. California


2. New Jersey


3. Arizona


4. New Mexico


5. Pennsylvania


6. Colorado


7. New York


8. Texas


9. North Carolina


10. Hawaii


All Other States




3.  Utility-sector PV installations more than doubled in 2011 compared to 2010

The utility sector’s share of all U.S. grid-connected PV installations grew from virtually none in 2006 to 15% in 2009, to 32% in 2010, and to 38% in 2011. Of the 10 largest PV installations in the United States, five were installed in 2011. The two largest U.S. PV installations installed in 2011 were the 49-megawatt DC (MWDC) Mesquite Solar 1 Plant in Arlington, Ariz., which supplies power to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers in northern California, and the 35-MWDC plant in Webberville, Texas, which supplies power to Austin Energy.

4.  The average size of non-residential distributed installations is increasing

The capacity of non-residential sector installations, like government buildings, retail stores, warehouses, and military installations, more than doubled in 2011 compared to 2010. The average size of a non-residential distributed installation grew by an astounding 46%. The largest installations to date in this sector were a 9-MWDC installation at Gloucester Marine Terminal in Gloucester City, N.J., and a 6-MWDC installation at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Favorable economics for consumers and a rush to complete installations before the expiration of the Treasury 1603 Grant program at the end of 2011 fueled this explosive growth.

 5.  Policy remains the most important market driver

Federal tax credits and cash grants are an important financial component of most installations. State policies affect PV installations, with most installations happening in the few states with favorable solar policies. Though their impact on the total market is declining, financial rebates have historically been the most important state policy initiative, especially for smaller installations. State renewable portfolio standards (RPSs), which mandate that utilities generate a percentage of their power from solar or other renewable sources, tend to encourage larger installations. These are fast becoming the most important state policy tool. Installed PV costs are declining and there are now a few markets where PV costs compete with electricity prices.

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox - FREE!

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World Magazine and our award-winning e-Newsletter to stay up to date on current news and industry trends.

 Subscribe Now



A Case Study in Energy-Transition Momentum

Tim King South Australia is clearly at the forefront of the global energy transition as it establishes a fast-moving model oth...

Listen Up: Can I Get Solar if my Roof is Shaded?

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World Rooftop solar panels only work when they are in direct sunlight. So if you have a partially shaded roof, the output o...

US Senate Democrats Unveil Energy Bill That Restores PTC and Extends ITC

Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg Senate Democrats unveiled a bill that would provide more tax credits for renewable energy while killing some tax ince...

US, China Solar PV Players Team Up, Invest $100M in Chile, Uruguay and Japan

Andrew Burger Private equity infrastructure specialist Hudson Clean Energy Partners and Hong Kong-based independent power producer ...


Array Technologies Finalizes Shipments to E.ON’s Maricopa West Solar Project

Array Technologies, Inc. (ATI) has completed DuraTrack® HZ shipments to the 20 MW (ac) ...

B.C. Energy Minister to provide keynote at renewables for mines summit.

BC Minister of Energy and Mines to address the challenges of providing alternative powe...

Mining leaders seek renewables solutions at Toronto Summit

The global mining sector is facing a tough business environment with low commodity pric...

American Renewable Energy Institute Gears Up for 12th Annual Summit

"Racing Climate Change: Green Bridge with China, The Road to Paris” is the theme of th...


New Mexico Attracts Jobs and Revenues with Renewable Energy Tax Credit

New Mexico has abundant fossil fuel resources: in 2013, it ranked sixth in the nation for crude oil production, seven...

The Vice President Stole My Show (Not Really)

When I finished my Solar Power International (SPI) panel discussing what future opportunities the panelists saw in so...

The Value Of The Building

If you’re selling efficiency solutions in the built environment, you may find yourself being asked by your pros...

Sewage provides energy through processing

Many nations are investing in new technology to turn sewage waste into usable energy. Japan has recently revised its ...


Larry is IREC’s Vice President and COO and has worked with IREC in different capacities for over 10 years. He is the author of the annual IREC Report, U.S. Solar Market Trends, and Editor of the IREC Small Wind Newsletter. Larry has over 30 years...


Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon



Successfully Integrating Solar: A Proactive Approach

•      What does the increasing solar penetrati...

Solar Power Asset Management and Performance

SEIA and SEPA collaborated with industry leaders to present the first ev...

Solar Power Northeast

  From the team that produced Solar Power Southeast and the sol...


Saving Vs. Gaining

Whenever I do a national keynote speech or customized coaching session f...

SPI Brings Out The Best In Solar

Phew…...those cross-country flights sure take a lot out of a guy....

Join us at the New Solar Power Northeast

From the team that produced Solar Power Southeast and the sold out P...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now