It may not compare to the German solar market. But the U.S. is definitely becoming a major force globally when it comes to new installations.
According to the 2012 Solar Market Insight report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, America installed 3,313 megawatts of solar capacity last year -- accounting for 11 percent of total global installations. That's up from 7 percent in 2011.
"From 2004 until 2010, America's global share had been stuck in a tight band. The U.S. significantly broke that in 2012," said Shayle Kann, vice president at GTM Research. "Our forecasts put us at 13 percent in 2013."
Take a look at the surge over the last two years:
Every market is growing in the U.S., but the strongest growth occurred in the utility and residential sectors.
Boosted by the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program, the utility-scale solar sector saw 134 percent growth -- bringing in 1,782 megawatts of installations. According to the GTM/SEIA analysis, eight of the ten biggest solar PV projects installed in the U.S. were completed in 2012. And there are 4,000 megawatts of additional utility-scale projects currently under construction. Although new contracts have slowed for these massive projects, the pipeline will still represent roughly 45 percent of installed capacity in 2016.
On the other end of the spectrum, the residential market grew by 62 percent. The impact of solar services was stark: half of all new 2012 residential installations in California, Arizona, Colorado and Massachusetts were completed through the third-party ownership model last year. In Arizona, 90 percent of residential projects were done through leasing or power purchase agreements. GTM Research projects that these models will be valued at $5.7 billion in the next two years. After 2013, distributed projects will start to erode the utility sector's market share.
While installations across every sector rose, the price of those systems consistently fell. In 2012, the weighted average sales prices for PV systems dropped by more than a quarter to $5.04 per watt in the residential market, $4.27 per watt in the non-residential market, and $2.27 per watt in the utility market.
GTM projects 30 percent growth in the U.S. this year, with roughly the same breakdown across sectors.
Last year also marked a major milestone for solar PV globally. With more than 30 gigawatts of capacity installed world-wide, the solar industry reached the cumulative 100-gigawatt mark -- a mark that the wind industry hit in 2008.
A little solar public service announcement: At 11 a.m. EST today, there will be a Google hangout to discuss the report. We'll also be fleshing out the factors that are driving the U.S. market at our upcoming GTM Solar Summit. Come join our analysts, news team, and business pros to hear more about what's happening here and around the world.