We’ve already talked about how renewable energy investments are thriving in the United States and elsewhere. Now there’s even better news regarding the U.S. solar market, which is turning out to be growing significantly faster than previously thought. In 2012, it’s expected that nearly 3.3 gigawatts of solar panels will be installed, up 18% from previous forecasts of 2.8 gigawatts. If this is the case, the solar panel market in the U.S. will increase by a massive 75% from 2011.
The first quarter of the year had 506 megawatts of solar panels installed, an 85% increase from the first quarter of 2011. New Jersey led the market during this period, with 174 megawatts of installations.
There are said to be several indicating factors regarding the recent boom. For one, some solar power plants are being constructed much faster than expected, and are likely to be completed by the end of 2012. Commercial solar panel installations have also been quite strong in New Jersey and California.
There has also been a pretty heavy decrease in solar panel prices, nearly 50% across the world in 2011. However, solar panels still account for an small percentage of overall energy project development. For companies that want to install small systems, the cost of permits and other paperwork is burdensome. Reducing these costs is one of the main priorities of the U.S. Department of Energy as well as state authorities and solar companies.
There’s still tough competition in solar panels made outside the U.S. In the first quarter of 2012, only 160 out of 506 megawatts of solar panels were made in the country. The fact that companies such as SpectraWatt, Solyndra, Evergreen Solar, and Energy Conversion Devices have all filed for bankruptcy means it’s also difficult to find local manufacturers that offer the most affordable panels.
Are you part of the group that has taken the plunge into solar energy? Do you think more people will take the plunge if locally made solar systems become more affordable?