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49 Percent Of New US Electricity Capacity Is From Solar Energy

A couple of big solar records were set in Q1 2013 in the US. For one, 49% of all new US electricity generation capacity came form solar, the most ever for a first quarter. Secondly, 723 MW of solar power capacity were installed and put online, again a Q1 record for the US. Let’s run down a bunch more of the facts and highlights from the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) and GTM Research’s latest US Solar Market Insight® quarterly report. http://crowncapitalmngt.com/

US Solar Power Installation Capacity


As you can see in the chart above, Q1 2013 was just the 4th best quarter to date for solar installation capacity. However, for various reasons, Q4 is generally the best quarter of the year and Q1 the worst, so that’s actually quite a good ranking.

Also, utility-scale projects really throw quarter-by-quarter comparisons out of wack. As SEIA writes: “As always, it is important to take the utility market out of the equation when seeking meaningful conclusions from the comparison of quarterly installation figures; the utility market is simply too volatile and dependent on individual project timelines. In that context, Q1 was quite strong in the residential market (53% year-over-year growth) and weak in the non-residential market (down 20% year-over-year). This reflects our general outlook for the year; we expect significantly stronger growth in the residential market than the non-residential market. Utility installations were down substantially from Q4 2012, but up more than 130% relative to Q1 2012. This market generally experiences a boom in the fourth quarter and we expect the same pattern to hold in 2013.”

Anyway, if you’re a fan of numbers, all in all, Q1 2013 was down 45% from Q4 2012 but up 33% from Q1 2013.

Remember that this growth is projected to continue throughout the year, with solar projected to become the #2 source of new power capacity in the US in 2013 as a whole, only behind natural gas.

In total, at the end of Q1, US solar power installation capacity stood at 7,962 MW.

Distributed Solar Revolution

SEIA highlighted utility-scale solar’s role in 2012′s record-crushing year, but it also went on to note that the future is going to be about distributed (residential and commercial) solar.

Residential solar was 53% higher in Q1 2013 than in Q1 2012, and it was actually 11% higher than Q4 2012.

Here’s more from SEIA on the revolution: “We expect that the next four years will be marked by a new solar revolution in the U.S., this time driven by the distributed generation (DG) market. Whereas residential and commercial solar markets have historically been effectively capped by the availability of state- and utility-level incentives, solar has now become cost-effective in some markets with only the federal investment tax credit (ITC), accelerated depreciation and net metering. This report highlights this shift in California, where a meaningful number of installations have been completed without California Solar Initiative incentives, which have been that market’s main driver since 2007.”

The solar revolution has been one of the concepts that seems to get people most excited, and seems to most influence the sharing of solar stories on CleanTechnica and elsewhere. It is an exciting concept. And we are clearly living in an exciting time.

Regarding California, let’s also remember that nearly 100% of new electricity generation capacity in the state in the second half of 2013 is projected to come from solar power. That’s outstanding, amazing. The revolution really seems to be starting.

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