Intelligent Energy

U.S. solar installations double

U.S. solar installations double

Posting in Energy

The U.S. now has 5.7 gigawatts of installed solar capacity, enough to power more than 940,000 households. Find out which markets boomed, and which ones fell flat.

The number of solar panel installations in the United States skyrocketed to 742 megawatts in the second quarter, more than double from the same period last year, thanks largely to high demand in California and a strong utility market, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight report by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the GTM Research.

In total, the U.S. now has 5.7 gigawatts of installed solar capacity, enough to power more than 940,000 households.

Installations varied greatly across states and markets. New Jersey, which analysts have warned for months would slow down, finally began to experience a correction.

Meanwhile, overall commercial installations fell 33 percent nationally from last quarter and residential remained flat. A downturn in the commercial market in California (down 45 percent) and New Jersey (down 35%) contributed a large part of a decline. However, these two states were not alone. Only 10 of the 24 states GTM Research tracks individually saw quarterly growth in the non-residential market in the second quarter, according to the report.

The jump in solar installations was largely driven by the utility industry, which had its best quarter on record with more than 20 projects completed totaling 477 megawatts. Eight states posted utility installations of 10 megawatts or greater. Not surprisingly California, Arizona and New Jersey were on that list. Other 10 MW and greater states included Nevada, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina and New Mexico.

Utility-scale concentrating solar power and concentrating solar photovoltaic installations continue to be added in the U.S. As of the end of the second quarter, there's a cumulative of 546 MW of concentrating solar capacity operating in the U.S.

CSP plants use mirrors or lenses to concentrate sunlight on fluid-filled receiver tubes that heat up water to create steam and drive a turbine to power an electrical generator. Two CSP projects, the 100 MW Quartzsite project and the 100 MW Moapa Solar Energy Center were expedited last month as part of President Obama's "We Can't Wait Initiative."

Meanwhile, Cogentrix's CPV project, which is essentially a mashup of two common technologies: photovoltaic solar (PV) and concentrating solar thermal (CST), came online in the second quarter.

Photo: Brightsource Energy

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure