U.S. Solar Jumps 41% in 2013 Driven by Residential Demand

Demand for U.S. solar power increased 41 percent last year driven by record growth in residential projects, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Developers installed 4.75 gigawatts of photovoltaic panels in 2013, making solar the biggest source of new generating capacity after natural gas, the Washington-based trade group said today in a statement. Demand next year will increase 26 percent as rooftop power plants become more common.

Residential projects surged 60 percent over 2012 to 792 megawatts as homeowners embraced financing models such as leasing that let consumers install panels at little to no upfront cost, according to Shayle Kann, vice president of research at Boston-based GTM Research, which publishes the quarterly market reports with SEIA.

“Residential solar in the U.S. is becoming the bedrock of demand for solar and is really a market segment that benefits from extremely attractive economics,” Kann said on a call with reporters yesterday.

Residential installations swelled a record 33 percent in the fourth quarter over the third quarter, and the segment will continue to lead U.S. demand this year.

Utility-scale projects increased 58 percent with 2.85 gigawatts installed last year. That is expected to slow this year as fewer contracts for big solar farms are signed, Arno Harris, SEIA chairman and chief executive officer of solar project developer Recurrent Energy LCC, said on the call.

“The demand landscape has shifted toward projects in the 1 megawatt to 20 megawatt range,” according to the report.