Washington, 10 September (Argus) — The amount of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed during the second quarter was the highest ever recorded as total US solar capacity surpassed 5GW.
More than 20 utility-scale solar PV projects were completed in the quarter, with a total combined capacity of 447MW, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Total installations in all market segments reached 742MW, 45pc higher than the previous quarter.
The US installed 1,254MW of solar capacity over the first half of 2012, more than double the amount in the same period of 2011, to bring total installed PV capacity to 5,161MW.
California led all states with 217MW of new capacity, while Arizona beat out New Jersey for second place with 173MW. New Jersey was the only other state to install more than 100MW during the second quarter, bringing the state's total year-to-date capacity additions to 277MW.
Residential installations in California grew 5pc from the previous quarter, but New Jersey and Arizona did not keep pace. Non-residential installations were down 45pc in California and 35pc in New Jersey. The SEIA report cited an oversupply of solar renewable energy certificates (RECs) in New Jersey as a major reason for the lackluster quarterly growth in that sector.
Prices for New Jersey solar RECs have fallen from $300/MWh at the beginning of the year to just $80/MWh at the end of last week. Solar REC generation in energy year 2012 exceeded the solar carve-out in New Jersey's renewable portfolio standard by 136pc. Recently enacted legislation will significantly boost the state's solar requirement starting in 2014 and should increase demand for SRECs.
The higher proportion of utility-scale installations pushed the national average installation cost down to $3.45/watt, a 33pc decline from the previous quarter. But residential installation costs dropped by just 6pc to $5.46/watt and non-residential installation costs fell by 5.4pc to $4.38/watt.
The SEIA report also highlighted the growth of third-party companies that own and operate residential systems while charging homeowners a monthly leasing fee. These companies own at least 70pc of the residential capacity in Arizona, California and Colorado, up from around 10pc ownership three years ago.
“It is expected that third-party installations will quickly claim even more market share in the coming quarters,” according to consultancy GTM Research, which contributed to the SEIA report. GTM forecast that PV installations will grow to 3.2GW by the end of 2012, up 71pc from last year. Utility-scale projects are forecast to account for 54pc of the year's total installations compared 40pc in 2011.
PV installations are expected to grow to around 4GW in 2013 and nearly 9GW in 2016.
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