Nationwide solar installations
soared 76 percent in 2012
Mar 14, 2013 - recordnet.com
NEW YORK (AP) — Solar panel installations
in the U.S. grew 76 percent in 2012 as the
cost of panels and the surrounding equipment
continued to fall, according to an annual report
by a solar trade group.
The U.S. installed panels capable of producing
3,313 megawatts of peak electricity, up from
1,887 megawatts in 2011, the report said. The
panels installed last year will generate about
the same amount of electricity over a year
as a medium-sized coal plant, enough to power
400,000 U.S. homes.
Solar grew in large part because prices continued
to fall. The average cost of a solar system
dropped 27 percent last year. Also, financing
programs flourished that allow homeowners to
install solar on their roofs for little or
no money down while paying less overall for
While helping installers, utilities, and homeowners,
the plummeting panel prices have devastated
the finances of solar panel makers around the
world. The biggest U.S. solar manufacturer,
First Solar Inc., has lost money in each of
the last two years. Suntech Power Holdings
Corp. Ltd., the biggest Chinese maker, is facing
a cash crunch and appears to be on the brink
Panel prices have fallen because demand for
panels in Europe, which is world's biggest
solar market, has fallen as government subsidies
have declined. At the same time, raw material
costs have plummeted and manufacturing capacity,
especially in Asia, has boomed. This has created
a glut in panels that has persisted for the
last three years.
Solar installers such as SolarCity Corp.,
which went public late last year, have benefited.
The company's shares have more than doubled
from its offering price of $8 a share to $16.97
in morning trading Thursday.
California led the nation in installations
in 2012, with 1,033 megawatts, followed by
Arizona with 710 megawatts and New Jersey with
415, according to the report issued by the
Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM
The industry predicts installations will continue
to grow in 2013, though at a slower pace. SEIA
and GTM Research predict installations will
rise 29 percent to 4,300 megawatts this year.
The U.S. government subsidizes solar systems
by offering a tax credit of 30 percent of the
cost of the installation. Many state governments
offer additional subsidies.
There are now 300,000 solar systems installed
in the U.S., according to SEIA. Their total
electric generation doubled last year, according
to the Energy Department, to 0.1 percent of
the nation's total electric power generation.