Shayle Kann, Greentech Media's VP of Research, kicked off a standing-room-only Solar Market Insight event in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Let's cut to the chase. Solar installations in the U.S. will total 3.2 gigawatts in the U.S. in 2012. That's a healthy 71 percent growth rate. "But the next couple of years are hard to call," according to Kann.

"We have a more sober assessment on 2013," said Kann, who sees close to 4 gigawatts in 2013, but like everyone in the solar industry, is waiting to see the impact of the ITC grant sunset. The upside is that "it's hard to imagine a down year for 2013." 


Kann said that the U.S. market is "a rare source of strength in an extremely difficult" global market. "We expect to see a recovery in shipments now that the import tariff has been finalized."


Kann discussed the Chinese solar panel import tariff. He noted that the final decision comes from the ITC on November 7 and that there have been instances where the entire case has been thrown out at that stage.


Residential solar is steady and growing incrementally, although that growth is "masking an enormous amount of flux in financing."


SunPower has the strongest dealer network and dominates in residential solar in the U.S. 

Kann suggests that in addition to the usual third-party financing companies such as SolarCity and Sunrun, the industry should keep its eye on newcomers with a unique twist on financing such as OneRoof and Vivint.


There are 300 solar industry movers and shakers at this conference, and we'll be reporting on their viewpoints over the coming days. The twitter hashtag is #ussmi2012. Stay tuned.