LOS ANGELES, APRIL 15, 2010 — (Reuters) — Installed solar capacity jumped an astonishing 37% in 2009 following an onslaught of state and federal incentives offered during the recent economic crisis to help prop-up demand for new solar equipment. Grants, subsidies, tax-credits and cash incentives helped push revenue past $4 Billion in 2009, a 36% increase from the previous year.
According to a report released last Thursday by solar advocates it was the fourth straight year of unprecedented growth for the solar photo-voltaic industry here in the United States. This contrasts with the long-standing European solar power industry, which has seen a decrease as it’s mainstay nations ramp-down their incentive programs.
New U.S. solar capacity reached 481 Megawatts (MW) last year, an increase of 130 MW from 351 in 2008. Solar thermal for water heating also rose, but at a more modest 10% on the year. The only decline was seen in solar-pool heating, which saw a 10% decline blamed mostly on the slowdown in the housing sector.
Analysts say that the spike in U.S. growth is also attributed to lower prices of solar hardware, which the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reported fell an estimated 40% in recent years. “Despite the Great Recession of 2009, the U.S. solar industry had a winning year and posted strong growth numbers… Consumers took notice that now is the best time to go solar,” says SEIA CEO Rhone Resch. The increase in solar was led by California, with New Jersey coming in second place, followed by Florida, then Arizona.
According to the SEIA, six solar utility projects also came on line in 2009, including both solar PV and solar concentration plants. Despite the increase, solar still remains under 1% of utilities generation within the United States. The SEIA is optimistic for the future however and predicts 17 Gigawatts of solar power down the line, enough to power over 3 million homes.
“Now we’re talking gigawatts of solar, not megawatts,” said Resch.
View the SEIA’s 2009 Industry Year in Review Here: