The first quarter of 2013 ushered in a record number of solar installations through the country, and California was at the front of the pack.
There were 723 megawatts of solar power capacity installed in the first three months of this year. That represents 48 percent of all electric capacity installed in America during that time period and is 33 percent more than the same time period in 2012. This makes it the best-ever first quarter for the industry, according to a new report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The U.S. Solar Market Insight report also put California at the top of the leaderboard for all states and Puerto Rico in terms of solar installation. The quarterly report was compiled through a survey of about 200 utility companies, installers, manufacturers, and state organizations, and national totals were based on data from all states and Puerto Rico.
In the first quarter of the year, California totaled 408 megawatts of power in solar installations. (New Jersey was in second place with 76 megawatts.) The report attributed the gains to a decrease in installation prices, which can range from less than $3 to almost $7 per watt, with an average of about $5 per watt, according to the report. Another key factor was "retail rate parity," in which a solar photovoltaic system can provide energy at lower than electricity rates even without incentives to absorb costs.
In addition to those positive solar numbers, the report stated that both residential and utility markets across the U.S. experienced first-quarter highs for solar installations overall, with 164 megawatts and 318 megawatts, respectively. The report also forecasts 4.4 gigawatts of solar power to be installed by the end of this year, and up to 9.2 gigawatts per year by 2016.
"We are on the cusp of a new solar revolution in the U.S., driven by the rapid expansion of distributed generation," said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM, in a statement. "Installations will speed up over the next four years as projects become economically preferable to retail power in more locations."
"The U.S. now has more than 8,500MW of cumulative installed solar electric capacity, enough to power more than 1.3 million American households," added Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. "This sustained growth is enabling the solar industry to create thousands of good American jobs and to provide clean, affordable energy for more families, businesses, utilities, and the military than ever before."