Green

Sun rising on U.S. solar power despite trailing Europe in 2010 growth

Production and installation of solar power fixtures grew 67 percent in the United States — but it wasn’t enough to keep up with booming demand and growth of the solar power industry in Europe, according to a new report by the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The U.S. solar power industry grew 67 percent to $6 billion in 2010, up from $3.8 billion in 2009, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Solar electric installations generated 956 megawatts of power in the United States, compared to solar panels generating 17 gigawatts of power as a whole globally. To put things in perspective, one photovoltaic cell — which captures sunlight and converts it to electricity — typically generates around a watt of power. Solar panels that are seen throughout the world are large collections of photovoltaic cells — usually around 6 inches across each.

But the U.S. share of solar panel installations fell to 5 percent of the total market share of solar power installations, down from 6.5 percent in 2009. Germany and Italy advanced in terms of market share thanks to generous subsidies and tax incentives to begin constructing and installing solar panels, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Most manufacturers expect the United States to play a larger role in installing solar power fixtures as subsidy cuts begin to hit Europe, according to the report. The number of solar power installations globally should double in 2011 when compared to 2010 thanks to additional demand from United States. California, which accounted for more than 80 percent of solar power installations in the U.S. earlier last decade, accounted for less than 30 percent of installations in 2010.

The United States solar power industry seems to be doing well and is on track to have a good year. It’s attracting investment from companies that want to buy up demand, such as SolarCity’s purchase of groSolar on the East Coast, OCI’s purchase of solar developer Cornerstone and Chinese player LDK Solar picking up a $33 million majority stake in Solar Power, Inc.