- Mark McDowell
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Solar Panels Powering More U.S. Homes
The year 2010 saw 956 megawatts worth of solar panels installed in the United States, providing a cumulative capacity of 2.6 gigawatts – enough to power 500,000 homes. Even though the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says solar is a fast-growing business, it still provides less than one percent of the nation’s electrical capacity. In 2010, solar panels were a $6 billion business, a significant increase over the $3.6 billion reported in 2009. Despite the growth in dollar volume, the global share of American photovoltaic installations fell in 2010, to just five percent of the world’s total from 6.5 percent in 2009. Although demand is growing in the United States, other countries are adopting solar to the point where they are leaving the United States in the dust.
Not surprisingly, sunny California leads the nation in solar installations. In second place was Jersey, followed by Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Pennsylvania. The six states accounted for 76 percent of solar capacity installed in 2010.
President Barack Obama is an enthusiastic supporter of renewable energy sources, and Congress extended their federal tax credits, originally set to expire at the end of last year, through 2011. “This remarkable growth puts the solar industry’s goal of powering 2 million homes annually by 2015 within reach,” Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO, said. According to Resch, “Achieving such amazing growth during the economic downturn shows that smart polices combined with American ingenuity adds up to a great return on investment for the public. The bottom line is that the solar energy industry is creating tens of thousands of new American jobs each year.”
“Another doubling of U.S. installations in 2011 is likely, even in the absence of a substantial mid-year price decline,” said Shayle Kann, GTM Research’s managing director of solar research. A Treasury Department grant program, which repays 30 percent of the cost of installing solar panels, boosted the number of projects. The price of installing photovoltaic systems fell by 10 percent for commercial and eight percent for residential consumers last year. Other countries are cutting their subsidies this year, possibly leading to an Italy, the more suppliers are going to price more competitively in new markets, like the U.S., ultimately growing the market,” Kann said.
In addition to the United States, the leading nations that are adopting solar energy include Germany (9,785 megawatts); Spain (3,386 megawatts); Japan (2,633 megawatts); Italy (1,167 megawatts); the Czech Republic (465 megawatts); Belgium (363 megawatts); China (305 megawatts); France (272 megawatts); and India (120 megawatts).