A new solar industry organization publication reports that total solar capacity (electric power plus water, pool and space heating) in the United States grew by 1,265 megawatts in 2008, an increase of 16 percent to a total capacity 9,183 MW.
The Solar Energy Industry Association’s Year in Review also notes that even though no new concentrating solar power plants were completed in 2008, the pipeline contains CSP projects totaling more than 6,000 MW and most already have purchase power subscriptions.
Here are some additional metrics from the SEIA’s report about what occurred in 2008:
- 342 MW of PV capacity was added
- Grid-tied PV capacity, 292 MW, increased 58 percent, a record jump.
- Solar water heating capacity increased 40 percent, also a record amount.
- PV manufacturing stood at about 685 MW per year at the end of the year, an increased of 65 percent.
Solar pool heating capacity grew at a slower rate than in 2007, reflecting conditions in the residential real estate market.
The amount of solar capacity varies widely by region and state. California led the pack, installing 178.6 MW of grid-tied PV power. The south and west regions generally dominate, with the largest PV system, at 10 MW, installed in Boulder City, Nev.
Grid-tied PV capacity in U.S. states (Source: Larry Sherwood, IREC)
Installed in 2008
Although the jumps in solar usage are a positive sign, this doesn’t mean that everything is relatively rosy in the solar industry. In an SEIA poll – taken before the Obama administration’s and Congress’ American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed – 86 percent of companies reported some kind of negative impact as a result of the poor economy. Of the employees represented in the survey, 31 percent worked at companies that had already downsized or were expecting to downsize.
Regarding solar thermal applications, SEIA reports the following breakdown: 139 thermal megawatts of solar water heating, 762 MWTh of pool heating and 21 MWTh of solar space heating and cooling.
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.
Although the added 342 MW of PV power represents good growth, it’s only a fraction of the growth in world leaders such as Spain and Germany, which added 2,460 MW and 1,860 MW, respectively.