First Quarter of 2013: The Best for US Solar Yet

The first quarter of 2013 has been the best for solar yet in the US. 

723 megawatts (MW) of new solar were added to the grid, a third more in Q1 2012, accounting for more than 48% of all new electric capacity for the quarter. The residential and utility markets both hit highs of 164 MW and 318 MW respectively, reports the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research.

The U.S. now has over 8.5 gigawatts (GW) of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, enough to power 1.3 million average American homes.

2013 is expected to be another record year with 4.4 GW of solar PV and 938 MW of concentrating solar coming online as some of the big utility-scale plants in the west are completed. That’s enough to power 960,000 homes.

By 2016, SEIA and GTM project solar will grow to almost 9.2 GW a year.

Solar PV growth

Also, in California, solar reached an all-time high of 2.071 gigawatts (GW) of production on June 7, supplying over 5% of the day’s peak demand and providing energy for 1.5 million homes.

That’s double the record achieved last year when California first exceeded 1 GW of solar. "We are excited by this trend and expect to hit more record peaks on a regular basis," says Steve Berberich, President of the California Independent System Operator Corporation. 

That is almost the same as 2.25 GW of energy lost in January from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station when it closed because of small radiation leaks.  

First Quarter Highlights

Residential solar grew 53% from Q1 2012, compared to the 4-12% range in 12 of the past 13 quarters.

Solar leasing continues to be a major driver, accounting for 67% of residential solar installed California and 86% in Arizona, for example. For the first time, in fact, residential solar was responsible for California’s record quarter, exceeding that of non-residential installations.

The average residential PV system price fell below $5 per watt and the average non-residential system price fell below $4 per watt.

The utility market more than doubled year-over-year, with 24 utility PV projects completed in Q1 2013.  

"This growth simply would not have occurred without consistent, long-term policies that have helped to ensure a stable business environment for our nation’s 5,600 solar companies – many of them small businesses," notes SEIA CEO Rhone Resch.

Read about the other record years of 2012, when solar grew 76% and in 2011, when it grew 109%.

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