Overall, the U.S. installed 3,313 MW, up 76 percent from 2011, a record for the industry. Even with the cost of solar falling for consumers, the U.S. solar industry grew 34 percent from $8.6 billion in 2011 to $11.5 billion in 2012 not counting billions of dollars in other economic benefits across states and communities.
At the end of 2012, there were 7,221 MW of PV and 546 MW of concentrating solar power online in the United States, enough to power 1.2 million homes. In addition to record annual installations, the fourth quarter of 2012 shattered all-time quarterly records with 1,300 MW of installed PV, besting the previous high by 64 percent.
The residential and utility segments had their best quarters ever, installing 144 MW and 874 MW respectively. The residential market saw meaningful growth in California, Arizona, Hawaii, Massachusetts and New York, as average residential system prices dropped nearly 20 percent in one year from $6.16 per watt in Q4 2011 to $5.04 per watt in Q4 2012.
SEIA and GTM Research expect residential solar to surge in 2013 and beyond, as third-party solar financing options spread across the country.
The nonresidential segment, which includes commercial, governmental, and nonprofit systems, installed more than 1,000 MW in 2012. Leading non-residential markets included California, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts and Hawaii. Meanwhile, the utility market continues to be dominated by installations in the desert southwest. There were 152 utility solar installations in 2012, and eight of the ten largest projects currently in operation were completed in 2012. These installations represented 54 percent of total installed capacity, or 1,782 MW.
SEIA and GTM Research expect the growth to continue into 2013 and beyond. For this year, the report forecasts 4,300 MW of new PV installations, up 29 percent over 2012, and 946 MW of concentrating solar power. Over the next four years, the residential and nonresidential markets are expected to gain market share as system prices decline, the industry becomes even more efficient, and new financing channels arise