Several reports have come out lately about the progress of the U.S. solar market. The numbers are mostly positive, showing growth, though there’s less demand and investment in the sector compared to the previous year. Germany, with its generous solar incentives, is still projected to be a global leader in solar, accounting for more than half of the world’s solar installations next year. Here’s a rundown of the latest solar reports:
U.S. solar and solar jobs are growing
The U.S. solar market is expected to grow at least 114 percent this year over last year’s installed solar capacity. A recent report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM research gives a baseline forecast that projects 944 megawatts of solar electric capacity (composed of 866 megawatts of photovoltaic solar and 79 megawatts of concentrated solar) will be installed in the U.S. this year. The report’s most aggressive estimate would see 1.13 gigawatts of installed capacity, a 156 percent increase.
“First half solar installations grew beyond expectations as a result of declining prices, continued government support and improving financial conditions,” said Shayle Kann, managing director of solar at GTM Research.
So it makes sense that domestic solar jobs are growing, too. A new report — a solar jobs census from the Solar Foundation expects solar jobs to grow 26 percent in the next year, adding 24,000 net new jobs by August 2011. There are currently 93,000 solar jobs in the country.
The SEIA/GTM report also found that California is the leader in installed solar capacity with 120 megawatts installed in the first six months of the year, followed by New Jersey, Arizona and Florida. In total, 341 megawatts were installed in the first half of the year. The report projects a stronger second half for 2010 because of one large concentrated solar power project, a number of large photovoltaic projects and continued strength in the residential and non-residential markets.
Venture capital and deals for Q3
Venture capital funding for solar has been on a down trend for the third quarter of 2010, a recent report by Mercom Capital found. This mirrors an overall decrease in cleantech investment dollars.
Total VC funding for solar was $169 million for 11 transactions, down from $922 million for 18 transactions for the second quarter. There was $20.7 billion in 12 disclosed funding deals, mostly loans and credit given to Chinese manufacturers by Chinese banks. Beneficiaries of that billion-dollar financing include LDK Solar, JA Solar, Yingli and Solarfun.
Also notable: Solaria raised $65 million and SolarCity raised $21.5 million. Solar M&A activity saw a surge this quarter, thanks largely to Sharp’s acquisition of Recurrent Energy for $305 million.
Public supports solar development
Most Americans — 94 percent — support the development and use of solar energy, a survey by Schott Solar found. And 80 percent of those surveyed supported the reallocation of federal subsidies from fossil fuel to renewable energy industries. The support spanned party affiliations, with 92 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of Democrats supporting solar. Climate legislation that would support solar, however, has had its share of struggles.
“According to this poll, solar energy is more popular than puppy dogs or ice cream,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the SEIA.
Schott’s report cites a June U.S. Solar Energy Market World Data report, the United States still has the greatest potential to increase its position in the solar market. The report sees photovoltaic installations in the U.S. rising to 7,600 megawatts in 2014.
Germany still dominates solar, even though it’s not that sunny
ISuppli forecasts that worldwide solar installations will reach 20.2 gigawatts next year, up from 14.2 gigawatts at the end of 2010 — but almost half of that will be fueled by Germany, which will account for 9.5 gigawatts.
Germany offers some generous incentives for solar companies — in Berlin, companies can get up to 50 percent of their investment subsidized — which explains its dominance in installations. U.S. companies like First Solar and Nanosolar have both set up facilities in Germany to serve the demand in the area.
In fact, the subsidies have made such a difference in growing the solar market there, One Block Off the Grid has illustrated a comparison (pictured) — noting that the U.S. gets much more sunlight than Germany, but has far less solar energy — chalking up that difference to subsidies.
However, there has been some industry worry about cutbacks. In August, the country made a 16 percent cut in its feed-in tariff. Still, the German solar market forecast still looks … well, bright.
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