U.S. Solar Installs More Than Doubled in Second Quarter

U.S. solar-panel installations more than doubled in the second quarter from a year earlier led by demand in California, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Installations totaled 742 megawatts in the quarter, up 45 percent since the first quarter, and may reach 3.2 gigawatts by year end, the Washington-based trade group said today in its quarterly market report. California led installations with 217 megawatts, followed by Arizona with 173 megawatts.

The U.S. now has 5.7 gigawatts of installed solar capacity, enough to power 1 million homes, according to GTM Research, a Boston-based consulting company that prepared the report with SEIA.

The boom was driven by large projects that sell power to utilities, with little growth in residential installations and declines in non-residential projects, Shayle Kann, vice president at GTM, said in an interview Sept. 7. “It’s an indicator that the utility market will be the main story this year and probably for the next few years.”

More panels were installed in the quarter than in all of 2009 as solar costs declined, Rhone Resch, chief executive officer of SEIA, said in the statement. “With costs continuing to come down, solar is affordable today for more homes, businesses, utilities, and the military.”

The U.S. now has 3.4 gigawatts of projects under construction and about 10 gigawatts more of projects that have signed power contracts, said Kann. It will be the fourth largest market for panel installations this year, led by Germany, Italy and China.

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