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U.S. solar power market boomed in 2011

U.S. solar power market boomed in 2011

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Low prices created a boom time for the solar business in the United States. A renewable energy trade organization is reporting that U.S. installations more than doubled in 2011 both for commercial and utility owned systems.

Grid connected solar installations by year

Low prices created a boom time for the solar business in the United States. A renewable energy trade organization is reporting that U.S. installations more than doubled in 2011 both for commercial and utility owned systems.

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) published a trend report last week detailing the market's growth. Installed capacity among utilities grew 145%, and commercial systems capacity rose 132%. IREC credits government subsidies, failing prices, and strong demand.

Residential installations grew by a substantial but less impressive 24% on a capacity basis. The report notes that lower PV prices raise the potential for sales growth where there are no local or state incentives.

On a state-by-state basis the leaders were California, New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. Hawaii and Nevada also experienced market growth, and IREC anticipate that it will continue through this year.

"IREC's highly anticipated annual report points to continued growth in grid-connected PV, along with the continuation of the trend of higher growth rates for larger installations," says Jane Weissman, IREC's Executive Director.

However, solar power still accounts for a relatively miniscule portion of the national energy mix. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu co-authored a report on the opportunities and challenges of a "renewable energy future" in the journal Nature on Aug. 15. Chu expressed dissatisfaction with the pace of technology change.

"Despite the significant growth in the use of renewable energy, the fractional sum of non-carbon- emitting sources of energy that remained constant during the past two decades is sobering," the Nature report noted.

(Image credit: IREC)

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David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure