4 trends that shaped solar in 2012

A report released today looks back at what shaped the solar market in 2012 and provides a peek at trends emerging this year.
Written by Kirsten Korosec, Contributor

The U.S. solar market experienced massive growth in 2012 with installations totaling 3,313 megawatts, a 76 percent increase from the previous year, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight report released today by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Every market segment including residential, non-residential and utility showed growth over 2011 and installations expanded in most U.S. states. Falling installed prices, which dropped 27 percent during 2012, was a major driver of that growth.

That growth wasn't the only trend in the solar market in 2012. Import tariffs placed on solar cells produced in China, the ongoing consolidation within the manufacturing sector, the rise of residential solar leases and power purchase agreements and a wave of utility-scale solar projects that came online all had a considerable effect on the U.S. solar market.

Some highlights of these trends:

  • third-party owned systems accounted for more than 50 percent of all new residential installations in most major residential markets with Arizona topping 90 percent;
  • third-party owned residential solar market will maintain momentum and become a $5.7 billion market by 2016, GTM Research forecast in the report;
  • Eight of the 10 largest utility-scale photovoltaic projects operating today were completed in 2012;
  • more than 4,000 MW of utility-scale solar projects are under construction and more than 8,000 MW of projects with power purchase agreements are in place and yet to begin construction.

Looking ahead

Analysts noted in the report that "diversification in project financing" is a new trend unfolding in 2013. Developers have already discovered some creative new ways to finance solar projects. Some of these have already been introduced, while others will become a reality this year, according to the report. Some examples include using solar real estate investment trust, crowdfunding solar projects, securitized solar assets and solar inclusion in master limited partnerships.

Graphics: GTM Research/SEIA

Photo: BrightSource Energy (Ivanpah utility solar project)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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