Solar market in US strong through 2012

The United States’ solar market grew by 76% in 2012, according to GTM.

Imagine 16 million solar panels blanketing large pieces of land and covering roofs of homes and businesses. That was the number installed in the United States in 2012, when 3.3 gigawatts of the solar equipment materialized to representing a 76% annual growth.

Cumulatively, the country had about 7.2 gigawatts of solar generation capacity from solar panels by the end of 2012, according to a report by GTM Research the Solar Energy Industries Association.

As it turns out, the US is among the fastest growing solar markets in the world.

The U.S. is one of the fast-growing solar energy markets in the world, thanks in part to the generous federal tax benefits, loans and grants to support solar technology development and deployment. On top of that, over half of the states require their utilities to sell an increasing amount of renewable electricity.

Part of this is due to mandates set forth by states for renewable energy production, the tax breaks, loans, and grants from the Federal Government, and the falling costs solar energy.

The average price for solar panel systems across all market segments decreased 27% in 2012 from 2011, the report said. The average price for a system built for homes reached $5.04 per watt; $2.27 per watt for projects built to serve utilities; and $4.27 per watt for other types of businesses, government agencies and nonprofits.

Residential systems tend to be more expensive because they are smaller in size (5 kilowatts is typical), yet they still need local government and utility permits for each installation.

State mandates for renewable electricity have fueled the growth of utility-scale projects, the largest of which are materializing in western United States, particularly in California, Arizona and Nevada. In fact, eight of the 10 largest working solar power plants finished construction in 2012. Overall, project developers completed 152 utility solar projects in 2012, and that represented 54%, or roughly 1.8 gigawatts, of the solar panels installed that year.

With the trends the way they are going, it’s no surprise that GTM is predicting an even higher amount of solar power growth for 2013.

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