US Solar Says 2013 Installs Will Beat Germany


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With the announcement today of continued growth in residential and utility-scale installations in the third quarter and a forecast of a robust fourth quarter, the leading American solar industry group said new capacity additions in the U.S. in 2013 will likely exceed those in Germany for the first time in 15 years.

In a way, this isn’t a surprise – Germany’s market is vast and mature, accounting for an astounding 31 percent of the cumulative installed global solar capacity as of the end of 2012. It was bound and expected to cool off, while the U.S. market has plenty of room to grow (the U.S., despite its much larger population, accounted for 7 percent of cumulative installed capacity at the end of 2012).

u.s. germany solar

image via GTM Research/SEIA

And grow the U.S. market has – a big year is shaping up, although perhaps just a shade less big than had been expected by GTM Research, which compiled the latest data, and the Solar Energy Industries Association:

This quarter, our 2013 forecast has been revised slightly downward from 4,372 MW to 4,268 MW. While the residential forecast remains essentially unchanged and the utility forecast is up slightly, the non-residential forecast has been reduced by 70 MW. Overall, our forecast calls for significant growth across market segments in Q4 – an aggressive forecast that has been borne out in previous years but remains dependent on a number of positive factors remaining in place. If there is risk to our Q4 forecast, it is likely to the downside and we will be closely monitoring the market to determine whether a downward revision is necessary.

In the July-September quarter, the U.S. installed 930 megawatts of PV, up 20 percent over the previous quarter and 35 percent over the same quarter in 2012, according to the GTM/SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight: 3rd Quarter 2013.

“Without a doubt, 2013 will go down as a record-shattering year for the U.S. solar industry,” Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO, said in a statement.  “We’ve now joined Germany, China and Japan as worldwide leaders when it comes to the installation of new solar capacity.”

California was the leader, as usual, among the states in the third quarter, and not just with the barrage of big utility-scale plants coming on. The state also added 99 MW of residential PV, and the report said that as the year closed out growth should remain strong, “potentially making California the first state to install over 100 MW of residential solar in a single quarter.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.