Report: Residential Solar PV Installations Hit All-Time High in Q3 of 2012

Residential installations of solar PV hit a record high in the third quarter of 2012, according to a new report published by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The US Solar Market Insight: Third Quarter 2012 reports that more than 118 MW of solar PV capacity was added to the United States residential sector in Q3, a growth of 12 percent since last quarter and the strongest showing ever in a single quarter.

Chief among the reasons for the boom in residential solar PV adoption was cost. According to the report, the third quarter of 2012 saw the continuation of a drop in prices for solar power, with average residential system prices falling nearly 25 cents per watt – from $5.45 to $5.21. In comparison with the second quarter of 2012, residential system prices reflected a 4.4 percent drop in price, with installed costs falling by 15.3 percent.

The added availability of solar leasing opportunities and innovative third-party ownership models was also said to have had a significant impact on the high rate of residential solar PV adoption. GTM Research solar analyst Andrew Krulewitz said that despite falling costs, paying for rooftop PV installation remains a financially untenable option for many homeowners – a situation that an increasing number financing alternatives and leasing options are helping consumers overcome.

“The ability to lower one’s energy costs with no money up front is very appealing to many homeowners,” Krulewitz said. “It also takes the worry of monitoring of the system and ensuring that it’s working properly out of the equation.”

The overall solar PV market in the United States grew 44 percent over Q3 2011, with a total of 684 MW installed in the third quarter of 2012. This gain represents the third largest increase on record for the US market and brings the total installed capacity for the first three quarters of the year to 1,992 MW. In 2011, the total for all four quarters was 1,885 MW.

California was ranked the number one state in the country with the biggest gains in solar PV, adding 194 new installations in Q3. Arizona and New Jersey followed in second and third place, with 192 installations and 69 installations, respectively. Massachusetts, which ranked fourth, is credited alongside California for a strong showing in the non-residential commercial market, which improved on last quarter’s numbers by 24 percent and added 257 MW of capacity.

The report also shows that although no new concentrating solar capacity was added during Q3, there were some considerable developments in the marketplace, including progress in the construction of two sizable CSP projects: Abengoa’s Solana Generating Station near Phoenix and Brightsource’s Ivanpah project in California’s Mojave Desert. Once completed, the Ivanpah project is projected to double the amount of solar thermal power produced in the United States.

The US Solar Market Insight: Third Quarter 2012 reports that there are now more than 271,000 solar PV installations in the United States capable of generating 5.9 GW of electricity. Including concentrating solar facilities, the total US capacity now stands at 6.4 GW. The report also predicts that Q4 will likely lead to further record installations as developers push to meet year-end deadlines, ending with an overall 70 percent growth rate over 2011.

Lead image: Solar rooftop via Shutterstock

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Vince Font is a freelance journalist specializing in the fields of renewable energy, high tech, travel, and entertainment. Read his blog at www.vincefont.com or follow him on Twitter @vincefont.

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