Great news for the nation’s solar industry. The Solar Energy Industries Associated (SEIA) in conjunction with GTM released a report this week showing growth in the solar industry at its second-highest level ever. The report quantified new U.S. solar installations during the second quarter of 2012 with 742 megawatts (MW) of solar power installed – a 45% increase over the first quarter of the year. However, SEIA cautions the growth could begin to slow next year in response to various factors including legislative uncertainty.

The data showed utility photovoltaic (PV) market will remain strong through the last two quarters of 2012 with an additional 1.1 gigawatts to come online before the year’s end. The second quarter of 2012 was the largest quarter ever for utility PV installations, with more than 20 projects completed, totaling 447 MW.

Utility scale solar projects are certainly soaring and have attracted the support of many investors, including billionaire trend watcher Warren Buffett. Last year Buffett invested in the Agua Caliente solar project – the world’s largest operational solar PV project – located 65 miles east of the city of Yuma on the former White Wing Ranch in Arizona.

The project is expected to contribute 290 MW of new capacity to the grid, creating enough energy to power between 56,000-100,000 U.S. homes. The project announced it connected 250 MW of grid-connected power. Utility scale projects will continue to grow in capacity, and with them grows the need to modernize our nation’s grid to accommodate newer, diverse sources of energy that can maintain system reliability, increase efficiency and broaden consumer choices.

SEIA’s Report by the Numbers

  • Utility solar: SEIA reports that utility installations hit 477 MW in the second quarter, with eight states (California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, New Mexico, and New Jersey) posting utility installations of 10 MW or greater. In total, the U.S. now has 5,700 MW of installed solar capacity, enough to power nearly one million households.
  • Residential solar: During the second quarter, the U.S. residential solar market grew with the installation of 98.2 MW, led by California, Arizona, and New Jersey.
  • Non-residential solar: In contrast, non-residential (commercial, government, non-profit) installed 196 MW during the second quarter, after installing 291 MW in the first quarter of 2012.

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