Home Solar Panels Double in 2009
According to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), solar energy installations experienced significant growth in 2009--despite the recession. The total generating capacity from grid-tied photovoltaics (PV) grew 441 MW in 2009, reaching a cumulative capacity of 1,653 MW. In addition, solar thermal capacity landed just shy of 24,000 MW by the end of 2009. One of the industry's biggest winners was the market for home solar panels. According to the report, additional residential installations increased from 78 MW in 2008 to 156 MW in 2009, a 100 percent increase in just one year.
Much of the growth was driven by federal incentives and a steep decline in the price of solar modules. A $2,000 cap in the investment tax credit was removed in 2008, allowing homeowners to recoup more on their investments on solar energy products. A 30 percent tax credit for renewable energy manufacturers led to $200 million in new factories and upgrades.
The price of photovoltaic panels has fallen from $3.50-$4.00 per watt in 2008 to $1.85-$2.25 in 2009. With solar panels accounting for nearly half the cost of installing a solar energy system, the price reduction has put downward pressure on the overall cost of residential solar PV.
Investors are optimistic that the solar energy industry will continue to grow through 2010. Last year, venture capital firms invested $1.4 billion in solar energy, more than in any other renewable technology. Considering that the solar industry has a volume of $4 billion, investors are wagering a considerable amount of capital on the future of the industry. In an announcement following the report's release, the president of SEIA, Rhone Resch, claimed that 2009 was a breakout year for the solar energy industry:
Despite the Great Recession of 2009, the U.S. solar industry had a winning year and posted strong growth numbers. When the President looks back at how stimulus dollars were invested, he's going to see that solar was one of the best returns on investments in 2009 for the American taxpayers. In addition to strong policies at the state and federal level, solar's growth was driven by the emergence of new business models and declining prices. Consumers took notice that now is the best time to go solar.
Now the question is whether the solar industry can continue the momentum in 2010.