All New Electricity Added to U.S. Grid in March Came from Solar Power
Solar Stays Strong in First Quarter of 2013
For the first time in history, solar energy accounted for all new utility electricity generation capacity added to the U.S. grid. The Solar Energy Industries Association announced the news after reviewing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC’s) March 2013 “Energy Infrastructure Update”.
Seven major projects in California, Nevada, New Jersey, Hawaii, Arizona, and North Carolina added 44 megawatts (MW) of electric capacity to the U.S. grid, enough to power to service over 6,800 homes. No other energy sources, whether renewable or traditional, saw any additional capacity added. FERC’s quarterly report showed that solar also accounted for about 30% of all utility-scale new capacity. Solar capacity numbers are even larger when taking into account residential and other smaller installations. FERC reports only cover large facilities and do not include smaller projects and net-metered installations, which account for more than half of all U.S. solar electric capacity.
2012 Saw Huge Growth in Solar Power
2012 was one of the most robust years for additional solar power capacity, with 3,313 MW added or a 76% growth rate from 2011. The largest quarter on record was the fourth quarter of 2012, as solar installers and innovative financing models entered the market. Eleven states installed 50 MW or more, and over 82,000 U.S. homes installed solar power systems that year. California, Arizona, and New Jersey were the biggest players of 2012, adding 1033 MW, 710 MW, and 415 MW, respectively.
Since 2008, solar power capacity has grown by more than 600 percent, from 1,100 MW to more than 7,700 MW (enough to service 1.2 million homes). States with the most solar power per capita include Arizona, New Jersey, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Nevada. SEIA research predicts that 2013 will be yet another banner year for solar, with a projected 5,000 MW addition, a 50 percent increase.
Last year saw the average cost of a solar power system drop by 27 percent and has declined 60 percent since the start of 2011. The industry is currently valued at $11.5 billion, compared to $8.6 billion in 2011 and $6 billion in 2010. While the drop in solar power installations will push many manufacturers and installers out of the industry, many more homes and businesses will be able to afford the installations, especially since there is now an abundance of available leasing and financing models through third party solar financing companies that ease or eliminate up-front costs.