The solar energy industry is America’s fastest growing industry, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) CEO Rhone Resch announced yesterday at the opening session of PV America Conference 2011 in Philadelphia In 2010, the U.S. solar market was $6 billion, up from $3.6 billion in 2009. “We are growing faster than wind energy, faster than telecommunications, and, thank goodness, we are even growing faster than the mortgage foreclosure industry," Resch said.
Based on installed solar sales, the industry grew 67 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to SEIA and GTM research’s “2010 U.S. Solar Market Insight: Year in Review." That growth is spread across the country, and the Southwest is particularly poised to see increases as large-scale utility projects come online. “Last year, 16 states installed more than 10 megawatts; that's up from 4 states in 2007,” Resch said. "Already, the Mid-Atlantic region is beating California as the largest market in the U.S. for PV installations.”
Still, the industry faces challenges. “Even with spectacular growth, the U.S. market is slowed by the complexities of state-by-state differences in regulations, incentives, utilities and financing structures,” the SEIA report states. “Smart policies at the federal and state level, as well as a solid understanding of market conditions, are needed to continue and accelerate the growth pattern in the U.S.”
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s map of the best regions for generating solar power considers factors such as cloud cover, water vapor and atmospheric pressure. The Southwest is ripe with potential.