By Dan Carazo
Last April, the PV America Conference & Expo
was presented in Philadelphia by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)
and Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).
More than 3,000 attendees and 167 exhibitors showcasing
solar technologies, products, and services came together for three days to learn
where the U.S. solar industry is heading following its biggest growth year to
Event attendees heard much good news regarding the
solar industry’s economic expansion in 2010.
The solar installed base experienced scintillating
growth, as did utility industry installations and grid-connected systems. In
fact, 2010 results suggest that we should keep an eye on solar PV product manufacturers
and their markets.
Here are a few reasons why:
- The total size of the U.S. solar market grew by 67% from $3.6 billion to
$6 billion in 2010.
- Last year, 52,600 PV systems were grid connected, bringing the U.S. total
to more than 152,500.
- In 2010, solar electric installations totaled 956MW.
- Grid-connected PV installations grew 102% over 2009.
- Sixteen states each installed more than 10MW of PV, compared to only four
states in 2007.
- Utility PV installations more than tripled compared to 2009.
The positive news included the dispersal of America’s
installed PV systems away from the west with New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida,
North Carolina, and Texas among the top 10 states with new installations.
Surprisingly, the manufacturing of PV components
has also escalated here in the United States with year-over-year production
of wafers up 97%, cells up 81%, and modules up 62%.
In case you are unfamiliar with the two sponsoring
organizations, SEIA, established in 1974, is the national trade association
of the U.S. solar energy industry, while SEPA is an educational non-profit organization
dedicated to helping utilities integrate solar power into their energy portfolios.
SEIA works to strengthen the U.S. solar industry
through advocacy and education. SEIA represents its 1,000 member companies as
the voice of the industry and is actively working to make solar a significant
energy source by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening
the industry, and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy.
SEPA is an educational non-profit organization with
more than 750 utility and solar industry members. Dedicated to helping utilities
integrate solar power into their energy portfolios, SEPA provides unbiased utility
solar market intelligence, up-to-date information about technologies and business
models, as well as peer-to-peer interaction. By hosting national events and
through one-on-one counseling, SEPA helps utilities make smart solar decisions.
Despite the stunning growth enjoyed in 2010, according
to Benjamin Higgins, director of government affairs for AEESolar, Mainstream
Energy, the U.S. solar industry still faces significant challenges.
Chief among these is, “…an inconsistent labyrinth
of rules and regulations which complicate and prolong uptake (of solar energy
use),” said Higgins at the PV America event explaining that each state and city
has its own solar standards.
Additional barriers include a lack of political muscle:
- Republican Party support does not appear to favor renewable energy; the
GOP House recently proposed $800 million in cuts from the DOE’s Energy Information
- Because the solar infrastructure is not yet distributed across a majority
of states, the industry has little political clout with U.S. Senators and
Congresspersons elected in states that where the solar industry is currently
However, based on the solar industry’s stunning performance
in 2010, it will certainly pay to track what SEIA and SEPA report in the coming
Dan Carazo provides B2B marketing services for electrical industry organizations.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.