The United States’ solar energy capacity jumped a record 17 percent last year, though the U.S. solar photovoltaic market still lags behind those of Spain and Germany.
Solar energy deployment increased at a record pace in the United States and throughout the world in 2008, according to new industry reports.
Last week the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) released its “2008 U.S. Solar Industry Year in Review,” which found that U.S. solar energy capacity increased by 17 percent last year, reaching the equivalent of 8,775 megawatts (MW).
The SEIA report tallies all types of solar energy, and last year the United States installed 342 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) electric power, 139 thermal megawatts (MWTh) of solar water heating, 762 MWTh of pool heating, and 21 MWTh of solar space heating and cooling.
The growth rate was highest for grid-connected PV electric systems, which increased by 58 percent to a total of 792 MW. California dominated this category, installing 178.6 MW of grid-tied PV, but the largest PV system, at 10 MW, was built in Boulder City, Nev.
Meanwhile, domestic PV manufacturing capacity increased by 65 percent, and preliminary estimates peg the total U.S. PV manufacturing capacity at 685 MW per year as of the end of 2008.
SEIA estimates that 342 MW of PV were installed throughout the United States in 2008, and although Solarbuzz LLC, an international solar energy research company, recorded a higher number (360 MW) for its annual PV industry report, that growth rate is still dwarfed by the world’s fastest-growing PV markets — namely, Spain and Germany.
According to Solarbuzz, Spain added 2,460 MW of solar PV power in 2008, while Germany added 1,860 MW of PV power, leaving the United States in a distant third place.
Solarbuzz estimates the global market growth at 5,950 MW in 2008. World PV production reached 6,850 MW per year in 2008, a significant jump up from the capacity of 3,440 MW per year for 2007. Contributing to that rapid growth, the production of thin-film solar modules more than doubled, reaching 890 MW per year by the end of 2008.