By James Burgess for OilPrice.com
The U.S. solar industry had its best year ever in 2013, growing 41% from a year earlier. A new report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research show that a record 4,751 megawatts of photovoltaic solar power were installed last year.
Solar energy was the second largest source of added capacity in 2013, with only natural gas installing more generation. Wind energy accounted for most renewable energy installations in years past, but 2013 may have marked a point at which the market switched over to solar. As it stands, the U.S. has over 12 gigawatts of installed solar power.
By state, California takes first place by far, accounting for more than half of all installed capacity in 2013 with 2,621 megawatts. Arizona came in a distant second with 421 megawatts, followed by North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
“Perhaps more important than the numbers,” says Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research, “2013 offered the U.S. solar market the first real glimpse of its path toward mainstream status.” Large utility scale projects accounted for a large share of installations, but that is expected to slow. Indeed, the residential PV market is expected to be the major driver of growth for the solar industry as new financing schemes – such as zero upfront costs – allow the industry to expand its customer base. And costs continue to decline – the total installation cost for solar dropped by 15% from 2012 to 2013.
Costs reached a new low of $2.59 per installed watt. Solar power still only makes up a very small share of U.S. electricity generation, but as the industry grows and brings down costs, solar panels will become more common. Estimates show that the industry is expected to continue to grow rapidly, expanding by another 26% in 2014.
This article was originally published on OilPrice.com.