Utility-scale solar electric installations led a banner year for solar growth in 2010. Utility-sector photovoltaic (PV) instal- lations were quadruple the number installed in 2009, while a 75-megawatt (MW) solar thermal plant installation in Florida
was the largest such U.S. installation since the 1980s. Smaller, distributed
PV installations grew by a robust 62 percent, up from 29 percent in 2009.
Solar water-heating and pool-heating installations continued to grow in
2010, although at much slower rates than photovoltaic installations. (See
figure 1 on page 32.)
These are among the highlights of the Interstate Renewable Energy
Council’s annual “U.S. Solar Market Trends,” to be published this
summer at irecusa.org. According to the report, stable federal financial
incentives, continued solar-friendly policies in some states, declining PV
module prices and increased availability of capital all contributed to the
strong PV market growth this past year. Solar markets remain heavily concentrated in a few states, although more states now have significant solar
installations each year.
Utility-scale Projects take off
2010 marked the emergence of the utility-sector photovoltaic market.
Utility-sector PV installations increased four times compared to 2009. The
utility sector’s share of all U.S. grid-connected PV installations grew from
virtually none in 2006 to 15 percent in 2009 and 32 percent in 2010. Of
the 10 largest PV installations in the United States, six were installed in
2010. The two largest U.S. PV installations were installed in 2010. These
are the 58-megawatt DC (MWDC) Sempra/First Solar plant in Boulder
City, Nev., which supplies power to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. custom-
The 58-megawatt DC Sempra/First Solar plant in
Boulder City, Nev., is one of the two largest U.S. PV
installations, both installed in 2010.
first soLar/seMPra energy
ers in northern California, and the 35-MWDC Southern Co./First Solar
plant in Cimarron, N.M., which supplies power to Tri-State Generation
and Transmission Association customers in Colorado, Nebraska, New
Mexico and Wyoming. In addition to utility PV projects, Florida Power
and Light installed a 75-megawatt AC (MWAC) solar thermal electric
plant near Indiantown, Fla.
State renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements are encouraging investments in utility-scale solar plants in some states. Federal tax
incentives and grants and lower costs for PV modules also made these
investments attractive. Construction began in 2010 on many additional
utility-sector installations, and utilities and developers have announced
even more projects to be built in the next few years. Installations in this
sector seem poised for continued growth.
Copyright © 2011 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.
Distributed installations Pick Up
In 2010, annual distributed grid-connected PV capacity in the United
States grew by 62 percent, to 606 MWDC. Distributed installations provide electricity for use at the host customer’s site. More than 50,000 sites
installed PV in 2010, a 45 percent increase over the number of installations in 2009.
Residential installations increased by 64 percent and accounted for
29 percent of all PV installations in 2010. (See figure 2 on page 32.)
Residential installation growth has been dramatic each year for the past
five years, with annual growth rates between 33 and 103 percent. Federal
incentives for residential installations remained stable in 2010, and incentive levels are set until 2016. State incentives encourage more homeowners to purchase solar. Most installations occur in states with state or local