US set for huge 17GW of solar installations by 2015

The US is set for a massive rise in solar panel installations, with projects amounting to 17 gigawatts (GW) in the pipeline.

According to figures released by Solarbuzz, there are currently 601 non-residential photovoltaic (PV) projects in the pipeline, ranging from 50 kilowatts to 500 megawatts.

These projects will all be put in place between the second half of this year and 2015.

This means an overall figure of 20.3GW of non-residential PV installations either already in place or on the way since the start of 2010.

Figures show that California is by far and away the most popular area for PV projects, accounting for 62 percent of the country’s overall planned installations.

This is largely attributed to state’s commitment to a 33 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard target.

Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey are some of the other states which are looking to expand their solar capabilities substantially, with 40 states in total planning some form of expansion.


(Source: Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker)

And, of course, a phenomenal wave of solar installations means lucrative business for module suppliers, not to mention project developers, engineers and construction firms.

In terms of module suppliers, First Solar, SunPower Corporation and Suntech Power are some of the largest for MW supplied.

Inverter suppliers Advanced Energy and SatCon Technology are also well placed to cash in on the extensive commercial PV installations.

According to solar expert at IMS Research Ash Sharma, the swift expansion in the US shows how seriously solar energy has edged in on the energy agenda.

“It is massively important,” he told TechEye, “and we also project similar growth for utility-scale PV in the US. The US accounted for just six percent of global installations last year, but this will grow to more than 20 percent over the next five years and will become the world’s largest market by 2013.”

All of which makes the UK’s reluctance to back large scale solar projects appear rather backward.

With the Department for Energy and Climate Change looking to make it more difficult for larger project installations, there are fears that the UK could get left behind as others, such as the US, bound ahead.

Sharma believes that there is real danger of being left out of a very profitable market.

He tells us that the global PV system integration market generated around $45 billion last year, with an expectation that this will grow to around $70 billion by 2015.

All of which is non-residential system-based – so it appears that Chris Huhne could be opting the UK right out.

“The policy now favours residential systems but completely ignore larger-scale PV and make commercial PV – such as on offices, warehouse, farm-buildings – much more difficult financially.

“After August, they will not get enough backing and will no longer be financially viable to have systems above 250kW.

“Systems between 50-250kW will also struggle unless system prices come down considerably as tariffs are not high enough to generate a respectable return.”