The first quarter of 2013 was a pretty healthy period for solar energy development in the U.S., with a total of 723 megawatts of new capacity installed from January through March. That’s 33% more than what was installed during the first quarter of 2012. Perhaps the most outstanding figure from the GTM Research report, is that 49% of the quarter’s new electricity capacity in the United States came from solar installations.
This is a great indication that if it keeps growing at pace, solar will eventually emerge as a big factor in the U.S. energy mix, with some pundits maintaining we are even on the brink of a “solar revolution”. California is expected to be on top when it comes to solar installations, with nearly 100% of its clean energy installations in the second half of this year expected to be solar.
Not surprisingly, the ongoing decline in the price of solar is one of the biggest driving forces. Between the first quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013, the cost of residential solar systems dropped from $5.86 per watt to $4.93.
However, there are obstacles that could get in the way of even stellar growth. Project financing is one of them, especially since $48.5 billion is about what’s needed for projects installed between now and 2017. The hope is that community solar projects and crowdfunding sources will help overcome any financial setbacks, and maintain substantial capacity growth.
As far as future projections for solar go, the report anticipates 2013 coming to a close with 4.4 GW of new installations. Assuming all continues to go smoothly, the U.S. is expected to reach 9.2 GW annually in 2016, which also marks the end of the tax credit given by the federal government. If anything, that credit will give installers the incentive they need to get started on new projects before the time is up.
Overall, the U.S. is getting into the solar energy ring fairly well prepared, with future projections looking even brighter. Do you think there will be a solar revolution hitting the country, and world, within the next couple years? How do you see it playing out?
Image CC licensed by Wayne National Forest: Installing rooftop solar panels.