10GW And Climbing – US Crosses Another Solar Threshold

The United States is the fourth country in the world to reach the milestone of 10 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity – a pretty big milestone.

In the first half of 2013, 1.8 GW of solar PV was added, bringing it over the threshold. “The US has now joined an elite group of maturing solar PV markets that have accumulated more than 10 GW of installed capacity,” says Christopher Sunsong, analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.  “Only Germany, Italy, and China have more installed PV capacity than the US.”

The rapid uptake of solar PV is being driven by the dramatic declines in solar system prices since 2011. Average installed system prices in the US have dropped 60%, from around $6/watt two years ago to $4.25/watt for residential installations and $3/watt for large utility-scale PV projects today.

Growth has also been stimulated by state-level solar incentive programs – and nearly 40% of US capacity is in California.

“While the Far West and Mid-Atlantic states dominate the 10 GW installed, the Southwest and Southeast regions have recently made strong contributions,” says Samsong. Other regions however, such as the Great Plains and Great Lakes, remain largely undeveloped, creating further market upside going forward.”

Much of the capacity in the US has been installed recently: 83% of the 10 GW was completed within the past 14 quarters.

SolarCity installation

Solarbuzz forecasts 4.3 GW of new capacity over the whole of 2013 because of the large-scale solar projects coming online. Solarbuzz expects growth of 80% over the next 18 months, growing to 17 GW by the end of 2014.

Worldwide solar PV demand reached 15 GW in the first half of this year, roughly 9% higher than 2012, and cumulative solar PV installations are about 116.5 GW, according to SolarBuzz. 

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