Continuing its explosive growth, the U.S. solar industry had a record-shattering year in 2013.

According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Solar Market Insight Year in Review 2013, photovoltaic installations continued to proliferate, increasing 41 percent over 2012 to reach 4,751 megawatts. In addition, 410 megawatts of concentrating solar power came on-line.

Solar was the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the U.S., exceeded only by natural gas. Additionally, the cost to install solar fell throughout the year, ending the year 15 percent below the mark set at the end of 2012.

At the end of 2013 there were more than 440,000 operating solar electric systems in the U.S. totaling over 12,000 megawatts of photovoltaics (PV) and 918 megawatts of concentrating solar power (CSP).

FIGURE: New U.S. Electricity Generation Capacity, 2012 vs. 2013. 

Source: GTM Research, FERC

The U.S. installed 2,106 megawatts in the fourth quarter alone, 44 percent of the annual total. This makes Q4 2013 by far the largest quarter in the history of the U.S. market, surpassing the second-largest quarter by 60 percent.

“Perhaps more important than the numbers,” writes Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research, “2013 offered the U.S. solar market the first real glimpse of its path toward mainstream status. The combination of rapid customer adoption, grassroots support for solar, improved financing terms and public market successes displayed clear gains for solar in the eyes of both the general population and the investment community.”


Source: GTM Research/SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2013 Year-in-Review

“Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America, generating enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to power more than 2.2 million homes -- and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of our industry’s enormous potential,” said Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President and CEO Rhone Resch. 

“Last year alone, solar created tens of thousands of new American jobs and pumped tens of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy. In fact, more solar has been installed in the U.S. in the last eighteen months than in the 30 years prior. That’s a remarkable record of achievement," he added.

California continues to lead the U.S. market, accounting for more than half of all U.S. solar installed in 2013. In fact, the state installed more solar last year than the entire United States did in 2011. Despite installing the second-most PV in 2013 with 421 megawatts, Arizona didn’t live up to its 2012 total of 710 megawatts.

On the other side of the spectrum, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Georgia had major growth years, installing a combined 663 megawatts, more than doubling their combined total from the year before. On the whole, the top five states (California, Arizona, North Carolina, Massachusetts and New Jersey) accounted for 81 percent of all U.S. PV installations in 2013.

Source: GTM Research/SEIA U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2013 Year in Review

GTM Research and SEIA forecast another strong year in 2014, with 26 percent growth in the U.S. solar market. This will bring annual installations up to nearly 6 gigawatts, and the cumulative total will be just shy of the 20 gigawatt milestone.       

Key Findings of the Report:

  • The U.S. installed 4,751 megawatts of solar PV in 2013, up 41 percent over 2012 and nearly fifteen times the amount installed in 2008.
  • There is now a total of 12.1 gigawatts of PV and 918 megawatts of CSP operating in the U.S.
  • There were 140,000 individual solar installations in the U.S. in 2013, and more than 440,000 systems operating in total today.
  • Q4 2013 was by far the largest quarter ever for PV installations in the U.S., with 2,106 megawatts energized, up 60 percent over the second-largest quarter (Q4 2012).
  • More solar has been installed in the U.S. in the last eighteen months than in the 30 years prior.
  • The market value of all PV installations completed in 2013 was $13.7 billion.
  • Solar accounted for 29 percent of all new electricity generation capacity in 2013, up from 10 percent in 2012. This made solar the second-largest source of new generating capacity behind natural gas.
  • Weighted average PV system prices fell 15 percent in 2013, reaching a new low of $2.59 per watt in the fourth quarter.
  • We forecast 26 percent PV installation growth in 2014, with installations reaching nearly 6 gigawatts. Growth will occur in all segments but will be most rapid in the residential market.
  • The U.S. installed 410 megawatts of concentrating solar (CSP) in 2013, increasing total CSP capacity in the U.S. more than 80 percent.
  • The wave of concentrating solar power installations slated for completion at the end of 2013 into 2014 kicked off with the 280-megawatt-AC Solana project and the Genesis Solar project’s initial 125 megawatt-AC phase. In early 2014, BrightSource’s notable Ivanpah project also began operating and SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes project began commissioning.

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Purchase the report or download the free executive summary here. Want to hear from the authors? Register for SEIA and GTM Research's free U.S. Solar Market Insight webinar taking place on Thursday, March 6 at 1 p.m. EST.

Tags: gtm research, pv, seia, us solar market, us solar market insight, ussmi