The massive growth story for solar continues. The Solar Energy Industries Associationjust published the market results for Q4 2013, that suggests another record-shattering year. Solar PV installations increased 41 percent over 2012 to reach 4,751 megawatts – this was 15 times the market in 2008! The residential market was 792MW, almost twice the level in 2012 and 10 times the market in 2008. So the market is just beginning to take off.
Solar was the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the U.S., exceeded only by natural gas. That’s right, 29% of all new generating capacity in the US was solar in comparison to coal at 7% and wind at 8%. 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. In fact, more solar has been installed in the U.S. in the last eighteen months than in the last 30 years prior.
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. And prices continued to fall, another 15% drop in 2013 vs. 2012.
So what does this mean going forward? First, solar is going mainstream. For a long time, analysts and politicians have debated on the future of this renewable energy product, but these are over. Consumers are making their verdict clear: they seek energy cost savings and a sustainable planet.
Second, electric utilities will need to move quickly in how they adapt to the changing grid footprint. The California utilities are already setting an example through various initiatives. With more electric cars getting onto the grid, which in turn breeds even more solar usage, the entire distributed-grid movement will require all national utilities to take on a more pro-active role in helping consumers and businesses save money, while making the planet more sustainable.