Solar Electricity To Power 200,000 U.S. Homes By End of 2010

Solar is likely to surpass one gigawatt of installed, power-generating capacity this year in the U.S. — that’s enough capacity to power 200,000 homes — according to a report released today by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GreenTech Media Research.

The researchers believe that photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations in the states are on the rise thanks to decreasing prices and continued government support of domestic solar projects. One large CSP project and several large PV projects contributed to the robust forecast.

The Israeli-developed, California-based clean tech company BrightSource Energy attained federal approvals this year to build a major, 370 MW CSP installation in Southern California, including about 10 “power towers” on federal lands. This Ivanpah project has created high hopes for a BrightSource IPO this year, though a 2011 IPO is more likely.

BrightSource is backed by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Morgan Stanley and VantagePoint Venture Partners, Alstom SA (ALS), Black River Asset Management, BP Alternative Energy, the California State Teachers Retirement System, Chevron Technology Ventures, and StatoilHydro, and as Dow Jones Venture Wire reported, it received the largest loan guarantee that the federal government has issued to any clean-technology company.

PV projects took off, too. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) tracks these PV projects in the US via an open source map project, A quick search reveals some of the larger projects installed this year, including a $71 million plant in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center, consisting of 35,000 solar panels that should power more than 1,000 homes.

SEIA’s industry report predicts that of the 945 megawatts of solar electric capacity that is expected to be added domestically this year, 91% should come from PV and 9% from CSP installations. Last year, just 441 megawatts of solar electric capacity were added domestically from PV and CSP combined.

Political support for solar is also strong. The newest SCHOTT Solar Barometer Survey, conducted by SEIA and Kelton Research, found that 94% of U.S. citizens think it is important for the nation to develop and use solar energy, across all political parties and 80% agree that Congress should consider reallocating federal subsidies from fossil fuels to solar.

In the first six months of the year, California took the lead among states with solar electric capacity installed adding 120 megawatts. New Jersey, Arizona and Florida followed. Across the U.S. 341 megawatts were installed in the first half of the year.

The U.S. is also expected to reach 3 million square feet of installed solar thermal collectors for solar water heating, compared to about 2.6 million square feet in 2009. Newly installed collectors should provide hot water for nearly 50,000 homes, businesses and other facilities across the country.

Hawaii installed the most square feet of solar water heaters, followed by Puerto Rico and California in the first half of 2010. Within the solar water heating industry, the solar pool heating segment is expected to grow by 7% in 2010, with installations of approximately 11.5 million square feet.

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