The U.S. solar industry installed more solar panels between July and September of 2011 than in all of 2009. Experts point to utility-scale projects this year that have driven up demand.
449.2 megawatts of solar-generating capacity were added to the U.S. solar portfolio in the third quarter; that is a 140 percent increase from the 187.3 megawatts added in the third quarter of 2010. The research was conducted and provided by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Nearly half of the added capacity were attributed to utility-scale projects. At more than 200 megawatts between July and September, these large scale projects often take several years to work their way through the pipeline and begin producing energy, but utility-scale projects are the largest segment of the solar market.
In total, the United States will finish 2011 by installing about 1.7 gigawatts of solar power, the equivalent of two new nuclear power plants. Although the first half of 2011 showed a decrease in residential demand, residential projects are actually up over 20 percent from 2010.
California’s third-party leasing companies, which install solar panels at little or no cost upfront to homeowners, helped that state account for 44 percent of all residential solar projects in the third quarter of 2011.