The US pioneered solar in the 1950s, and was the largest market for a long time. But as I have discussed in previous posts, it’s been many years since the US market led global growth. Germany has dominated PV growth for a number of years until Spain’s strong 2008 growth of 2.46 GW. Today’s post will discuss the whole solar market (including solar thermal) after perusing the 2008 Year in Review published by the US Solar Energy Industries Association.
The US overall solar market grew at a tepid 17% rate in 2008 with cumulative installations at 1.265 GW. Solar PV and water heating systems were installed at a record pace, but pool heating systems grew slower than in each year 2005-2007. No new concentrating solar power (CSP) plants were added to our national capacity (~420 MW), but over 6 GW are currently in the pipeline. Grid-tied PV and solar water heating capacity grew by 58% and 40%, respectively.
States in the Lead
California is again the PV market leader with more than half of the national capacity installed in 2008. California now has over 500 MW of PV capacity. New Jersey remained the #2 state market despite its small size. The rest of the top ten was made up of Colorado, Nevada, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Arizona, Connecticut, and North Carolina – respectively. The US now has more than 1 GW of grid-tied solar PV.
Hawaii is the leader in solar water heating systems. The state now requires solar water heating in all new construction. Florida is the #2 state, followed by California, Colorado, Arizona, and Oregon. Total national installations currently total 485 MW, which remains far behind China.
Though unknown to many, solar pool heating remained the largest segment of the US solar energy market in 2008. It grew 762 MW or less than 10% due to the housing price bubble.
Total solar energy capacity finished 2008 at almost 9 GW compared to wind’s ~25 GW. So when some people say solar is miniscule, they are misleading. While solar growth will be slower in 2009, 2010 promises to be a big year that makes the solar industry comparable to its renewable cousin wind and other more conventional incremental energy options.
Here’s to US growth catching up with our friends in Germany and Spain within a couple years — putting our country back in a leadership position of the Sustainable Energy Transition!