Is the US solar energy market finally poised for growth? Based on data from the first quarter of the year, solar installations in the US have doubled from 2011 levels, according to GTM Research in a study conducted for the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Reuters today reported that 506 megawatts of solar capacity were added in the first three months of the year. The spike is spurring optimism among proponents of solar power, although Reuters reports that the uptick was likely due to projects that were qualified under US government grant programs that expired in 2011.
The article notes: "GTM said that following the first-quarter data, it had raised its forecast for U.S. installations to 3,300 MW this year, up from the 2,500-2,800 MW, it had predicted in March."
The boost is also surprising given that the US solar industry is embroiled in a trade dispute with China. The US Commerce Department is charging China with dumping solar equipment in the US and has imposed tariffs on imports. IHS iSuppli has predicted Chinese solar imports could represent as much as 60 percent of the US market for solar power in 2012.
Two companies in particular, Suntech-Power and Trina Solar, were subjected to US tariff rates of 31.22 percent and 31.14 percent, respectively, according to IHS iSuppli. This could help turn the tide for domestic solar equipment makers. Prices are expected to increase as inventory buildup in North American begins to decline and China targets other markets.
For consumers, installation prices dropped to below $1 per watt for the first time. Reuters adds:
Utility-scale solar costs fell 24.7 percent, while commercial-scale projects, which are typically installed by companies or municipalities, dropped 11.5 percent.
Costs for residential solar systems fell 7.3 percent, even as the year-over-year installation volume rose by nearly a third.
Those home rooftop systems remain the smallest segment of the solar market, but have shown steady growth in recent years, helped by the introduction of the solar lease programs from several companies.
@electrynx: Good question, and I posed the same question to myself as I wrote this piece. The association cited is an association to promote solar in the US so naturally they believe US (or North American) companies will benefit. IHS, hoever, provided some statistics on how much equipment/panels are produced in the US, and the percentage is pretty low. So it is not an automatic assumption that US companies will benefit, although the tariffs, if they hold, can't hurt.
@Barbara Even if US companies don't benefit, it still will be a good thing to use more solar power in the US. It is clean and, as far as I know, has no down side, unlike wind turbines that pose hazards to bats and birds.
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
While no one really can accurately predict the future, we can take guidance from another Drucker saying which is the best way to predict the future is to create it.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.