With help from a number of big new utility projects in the Southwest, photovoltaic solar installations in the U.S. soared 76 percent to more than 3.3 gigawatts in 2012, according to a report released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
"We've brought more new solar online in 2012 than in the three prior years combined," SEIA CEO Rhone Resch said in a statement. "This sustained growth is enabling the solar industry to create thousands of good jobs and to provide clean, affordable energy for more families, businesses, utilities and the military than ever before."
In dollar terms, the U.S. market grew 34% to $11.5 billion in 2012 from $8.6 billion in 2011. Major solar panel makers include First Solar, Suntech Power, Trina Solar, Sharp and SunPower.
In recent years, falling prices on solar panels have helped accelerate sales. The average price of a solar array declined over 25 percent last year, the report said.
At both industrial and residential levels, 2012 was a record year for the solar industry. Eight of the 10 largest U.S. PV projects, including utility-scale facilities in Sun Belt states like California, Arizona, and Nevada, were completed last year. Meanwhile, solar financing models helped drive residential market expansion in 2012, from 62 per cent to 488 MW.
Photo via GigaOM