It’s another sign that the solar photovoltaic (PV) market is continuing to build on year-over-year growth. The latest “North America PV Markets Quarterly” report from NPD Solarbuzz anticipates that the amount of solar installed in the U.S. in 2013 will blow past its previous growth records. The newest issue of report, published on June 3 anticipates that 4.3 gigawatts of PV will be installed in the U.S. in 2013. That’s more than the 3.49 gigawatts of PV installed across all of North America in 2012.
The new figures also show that the growth is anticipated to continue in 2014, when the report anticipates that more than 5 gigawatts of new solar will be installed. That’s roughly the equivalent of five larger, natural-gas fired power plants. And the figures don’t account for the large-scale concentrated solar power (CSP) projects which are also slated to come online in 2013 and 2014, adding more gigawatts of solar energy to the electric grid in the southwestern U.S.
This may also be the first time that a state installs more than 1 gigawatt of new PV within a year. The report anticipates that California will install more than 1.6 gigawatts of PV this year.
Considering that only three states—Arizona, California and New Jersey—have surpassed the 1 gigawatt threshold, it shows a surge in growth for the state. In a previous report, NPD Solarbuzz said the growth in California’s PV market in 2013 was anticipated, observing that the Topaz Solar Farm and the Desert Sunlight solar farm—both of which are 550 megawatts and the 250 megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch are slated for completion in 2013 or 2014. That’s in addition to a number of smaller utility-scale projects (under 20 megawatts) that are also slated to come online in California.
Still, California is just part of a larger story. To reach the 4.3 GWs, means that on average more than 1 gigawatt will come online per quarter. Most of that growth in the third quarter—70 percent—will come from a handful of states Arizona, California, New Jersey and North Carolina. The overwhelming majority, 68 percent (in terms of megawatts installed) will come from large utility-scale, ground-mount PV farms.
As with previous years, more solar will be installed in the second half of 2013. This will largely be driven by the U.S. southwest, where a total of 2.5 gigawatts PV will be installed in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.
While demand is largely being driven by a handful of states, the report observes that solar is starting to gain traction in more states. “New solar PV incentive policies and additional utility-scale projects are also starting to diversify PV demand across a greater number of states within the U.S., moving away from the traditional strongholds limited to the east and west coasts,” NPD Solarbuzz says. “Six of the ten fastest-growing U.S. states for solar PV demand in 2013 are located in the south or the midwest, providing annual growth rates averaging above 180 percent.”
Still, Chris Sunsong, NPD Solarbuzz analyst, cautions that the policies that have led to the explosion in solar growth throughout America are coming under increasing attacks. “The success of federal incentives and aggressive renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that were intended to stimulate domestic solar PV installations in the U.S. are now coming under increased scrutiny at the state level,” he says.
Another issue is the chronic oversupply of renewable energy credits in some states. “States such as New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania that are heavily dependent on solar renewable energy certificates, or SRECs, are at risk of continued over-supply that threatens to limit new solar PV investments.”