U.S. Solar Jumps 30% as Residential Installs Exceed 1 Gigawatt

Solar panel during construction in St. Ansgar, Iowa.

Solar panel during construction in St. Ansgar, Iowa.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Demand for U.S. solar power increased 30 percent in 2014 as residential installations for the first time surpassed 1 gigawatt, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research.

Developers installed a record 6.2 gigawatts of panels last year, including about 1.2 gigawatts atop homes, the Washington-based trade group said today in a statement. About 3.9 gigawatts of utility-scale and 1 gigawatt of commercial solar power were added.

The residential market remained the fastest-growing segment, gaining at least 50 percent in each of the past three years, as cheaper panels and growing consumer awareness of climate change spurred interest among homeowners. The market is swelling as demand climbs in new regions, said Cory Honeyman, a solar analyst with Boston-based GTM.

“Geographic diversification is something that’s becoming more evident in 2015 -- the fourth quarter of 2014 was the first time California didn’t account for more than half of the residential market,” Honeyman said in a telephone interview Monday.

Solar generation in the U.S. accounted for almost one-third of new capacity last year, topping wind and coal for the second straight year, according to the report. Natural gas provided the most new power.

GTM Research expects solar demand this year will grow 31 percent to about 8.1 gigawatts.

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