Despite the dark shadow cast over the US solar industry by the bankruptcy of Solyndra, 2011 was actually a record year for solar panel installations. A new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM research revealed that 1,855 MW of photovoltaic capacity was installed in the US in 2011, more than double the 887 MW installed in 2010.
Rhone Resch, president and chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Association stated: â€œIf we can attract the investment, the opportunity to grow is really limitless simply because demand for energy, and clean energy, is just so great.â€
The desire to embrace green energy is becoming an increasingly important task for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprints. For instance, tech giants Google and Facebook have made large investments in renewable energy (including solar energy) to reduce their carbon footprints and improve corporate image.
As a result of increasing renewable energy demand, the number of large-scale solar installation grew from 2 in 2009, to 28 in 2011. Residential solar panel installation grew by 11% in to 297 MW while non-residential installation rose 28% to 800 MW.
Clearly the solar industry is seeing continued expansion across the board, but it is still reliant on a favourable political climate to proceed. In particular, uncertainty over government policies (including green energy tax rebates and grants) and a potential trade row with China over low-cost solar modules could stifle the growing industry.
But even if favourable government policies donâ€™t continue, the costs for solar will continue to decrease as research proceeds and technology improves. By 2021, 100 million Americans could be powering their homes with solar energy for less than traditional grid prices.
What are your thoughts on the future of solar power? Do you think solar installations will continue to grow at the same rate over the next few years?
Image CC licensed by Steve Jurvetson