Despite Solyndra, U.S. Solar Up 69%

In 2010, the U.S. installed 887 megawatts (MW) of grid-connected photovoltaic (PV), up 104% from the 435 MW installed in 2009, according to a new recent report by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. However, the U.S. market’s share of global installations fell to 5.1%, down from 6.0% in 2009.

In the end of 2011, that’s expected to change, thanks to slowdowns in major European markets like Italy and Germany. And in a few years time, the report says, the U.S. market may be the largest in the world.

The report looks specifically at PV, or photovoltaics, which are the main kind of solar panel produced. These panels use polysilicon, now in oversupply.

One of the report’s key findings was the increase in grid-connected PV installations in Q2 2011 – up 69% since the same quarter last year and up 17% over Q1 2011. These have now reached 314 MW, or enough to power 63,000 homes. In addition, cumulative grid-connected PV in the U.S. is now at 2.7 gigawatts (GW).

Commercial projects increased by 22% from the previous quarter to account for nearly half of the new installations, while residential projects were about 30% and utility-scale plants were 16%. The commercial trends are expected to continue until 2012, when major non-residential markets (NJ, CA, PA) are expected to see a downturn while residential and utility markets grow. Overall, the report says, 2012 will be a more difficult year for the U.S., in large part due to the end of the Treasury grant program (Section 1603).

Six states in the U.S. installed over 10 MW each in Q2, compared with just 3 states in all of 2007. And, for the first time ever, New Jersey’s non-residential market (excluding utility projects) exceeded that of California’s, making it the largest in the country.

Despite the high-profile failures of companies like Solyndra, Evergreen and SpectraWatt, over 100,000 Americans work in the solar industry, double that from 2009, the trade group’s president Rhone Resch told Bloomberg this week. And on the whole, states the report, the U.S. is the strongest and most stable growth market for PV worldwide.