U.S. Solar Industry Continues to Surge
According to a recent report published in collaboration by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, 506 megawatts of solar panels were installed in the United States during the first quarter of 2012. The 506 megawatts of photovoltaic (PV) panels installed in the U.S. during the first quarter represents the second highest total of installations ever in a quarter and an 85% increase from the first quarter of 2011.
The findings of the study, published by Forbes and Reuters, forecast that the U.S. is on track to install 3,300 megawatts of solar panels in 2012 up from the 1,855 megawatts of solar panels that were installed domestically in 2011. If the study's predictions hold true, America's global share of the photovoltaic market will jump from 7% in 2011 to 11% in 2012, making the U.S. the fourth largest photovoltaic market in the world.
The results of the study come weeks after a controversial ruling by the United States Commerce Department which imposed tariffs on solar imports originating from China. The ruling led many analysts to predict that solar prices would rise domestically as the imposition of tariffs drove Chinese manufactures to seek more lucrative markets outside of the U.S. But despite the Commerce Department's ruling, the cost of solar continues to fall in the United States.
The study reports that solar panel prices fell to $0.94 a watt, dropping below $1.00 a watt for the first time. Solar projects of all sizes witnessed falling costs during the first quarter of 2012 with the costs of utility-scale projects falling 24.7%, the costs of commercial-scale projects falling 11.5%, and the costs of residential solar projects falling 7.3%.
The numbers bode well for the solar industry as the first quarter is usually the weakest quarter of the year. Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry trade group, was quoted as saying in the Reuters article."This really shows the beginning of what we think is going to be a breakout year for the U.S. solar industry." Over the last year, solar panel prices have fallen 47%. The fall in prices has helped revive an industry that has struggled in the midst of economic turmoil and policy gridlock in Washington, D.C. The solar industry is hoping that the positive trends will continue as it strives to reach grid parity and become more cost competitive within the energy market.