Photovoltaic solar installations in the United States soared 76 per cent to more than 3.3 gigawatts in 2012, helped in part by the completion of a number of large-scale utility projects in the West, according to a report released on Wednesday.
Eight of the 10 largest U.S. PV projects were completed last year. The utility market more than doubled from 2011 to reach 1.78 gigawatts, according to a report by GTM Research commissioned by the Solar Energy Industries Association.
But the residential solar market also grew dramatically in 2012, climbing 62 per cent to 488 MW. Solar leasing, which allows homeowners to avoid the hefty upfront cost of a solar system by paying a monthly fee for their panels, has helped accelerate the residential market. More than half of all residential systems were owned by a third party and leased to the homeowner, according to the report. The third party-owned market is expected to become a $5.7-billion (U.S.) market by 2016.
Non-residential installations rose 26 per cent to 1,043 MW.
Falling prices on solar installations have helped spur adoption of the renewable energy systems. The average price of a solar system in the United States declined 26.6 per cent last year, the report said.
A slowdown in the utility market will lead to slower growth in PV installations this year, according to the report, which predicted an overall increase of 29 per cent in solar installations to 4.3 GW in 2013. The utility market is expected to slow down as states grow close to reaching their goals for renewable power generation.