The total capacity of photovoltaic installations in the US continued to grow strongly throughout 2012 according to the latest figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.
The US Solar Market Insight report finds that the solar photovoltaics (PV) market installed 684 MW in the third quarter of the year, a 44% growth over the same period last year.
The quarter marked the third largest on record for the US PV industry and raised the total installed capacity through the first three quarters of the year to 1,992 MW — already surpassing 2011’s annual total of 1,885 MW.
The third quarter featured strong growth in the residential PV sector, which installed more than 118 MW, an all-time high for a quarter, while the commercial market - including government and institutional facilities - hit 257 MW, a rise of 24% on the last quarter.
In addition to solid growth nationally, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania saw growth of 5 MW or greater compared to the previous quarter. Behind Maryland, Massachusetts saw the greatest quarter-over-quarter increase, up from 25 MW in the second quarter of the year to 40 MW this quarter.
All Massachusetts installations in quarter three came from the commercial and residential sectors, boosted by the expansion of net metering allowances and an influx of national retailers that offer leasing and other innovative “third-party” ownership models.
“While Q3 2012 was remarkable for the US PV market, it is just the opening act for what we expect to see in Q4,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM. “We forecast more than 1.2 GW of PV to be installed next quarter on the back of developers who are pushing to meet year-end deadlines in both the utility and commercial segments.
"We also expect to see the residential PV market post another record number in Q4, as third-party residential installers gain more traction in mature, cost-effective markets.” Historically, Q4 has been the strongest for PV installations in the US. In 2010 and 2011, Q4 represented 41%t and 42% of annual installations, respectively. US Solar Market Insight forecasts a similar Q4 bump in 2012 with approximately 1,200 MW to be installed.
System prices for PV projects in the US continue to fall. Average residential system prices dropped quarter-over-quarter from $5.45 per watt to $5.21 per watt nationally while average non-residential prices declined 15 cents per watt, falling to $4.18. Average utility system prices, which are currently at $2.40 per watt, continue to see the greatest reduction in prices of the three market segments covered, falling by 30% since third quarter last year.
Commercial installations grew 24% in the third quarter over second quarter in 2012, led by notable growth in California and Massachusetts; a strong fourth quarter is also expected for this market.
The data coming out of the US Solar Market Insight reports mirrors what we are seeing as an owner of commercial rooftop solar projects in the US," said Mike Ward, US president, IKEA. “We completed 23 solar installations in 2012 and next year, we plan to deploy at least 7.5 megawatts of solar PV at five more IKEA locations across the US. Having strategic data and understanding trends in each state market is crucial for us to achieve our goal of having 90% of our facilities powered by solar and reaching a total generating capacity of 38 MW."
PV installations totaled 684MWs in Q3 2012, up 44% over Q3 2011, enough to power 113,000 average US households; third largest quarter following Q4 2011 and Q2 2012.
Residential installations grew 12% over Q2 2012 and had its largest quarter in history; residential continues to be the most stable growth segment in solar.
The commercial market grew 24% over Q2 2012, led primarily by growth in California and Massachusetts.