After months of speculation about the end of the solar era and the inevitable decline of the nation’s solar manufacturers and installers, the first substantive report with projections of the U.S. solar market has been released.
Solarbuzz, one of the most prominent solar industry research groups, released its North American PV Markets Quarterly report for the fourth quarter at the end of November.
Uncertainty about the solar market began in part with the turbulence in the economy that followed from a series of natural disasters and the debt crises in both the U.S. and Europe, then continuing with the end of key solar incentives in Europe and finally the collapse of several prominent U.S. solar manufacturers, including government-supported Solyndra.
Yet, despite these setbacks, the solar market grew substantially through the first three quarters. Many critics, however, argued that the impact would begin to be felt in the fourth quarter, once these incident had time to take effect.
According to Solarbuzz, if they had any negative impact it was lost in the tremendous growth of the solar industry. With 811 megawatts of new solar installations projected for the fourth quarter, the North American solar market should grow 32 percent from the third quarter of 2011. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the U.S. as a whole added slightly more than 878 megawatts of solar installations in 2010, only 67 megawatts more than the region will add this quarter.
The year-over-year growth is even more remarkable, with the market increasing 101 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010. If these numbers prove correct, the country would add 1.9 gigawatts over the course of the year, once again doubling the region’s investment in the solar sector.
“PV is now positioned to take significant market share from other energy sources as it approaches grid parity in some regions. Downstream companies are facing enormous challenges to adapt to rapidly changing channel structure and business models in order to successfully participate in that opportunity,” Craig Stevens, president of NPD Solarbuzz, said in a statement.
While residential solar installations remain a substantial portion of the market, more and more businesses are realizing the potential for large-scale rooftop solar installations as well, with 204 megawatts added in the third quarter and a staggering 301 megawatts projected for the last three months of the year.