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Mar 202009

From Green Right Now Reports

The solar energy sector enjoyed record growth last year, according to a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The 2008 U.S. Solar Industry Year in Review notes that 1,265 megawatts of solar power of all types were installed in 2008, increasing total U.S. solar power capacity by 17 percent to 8,775 megawatts. That increase included 342 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power, 139 thermal equivalent of solar water heating, 762 thermal equivalent of pool heating and an estimated 21 megawatts of solar space heating and cooling.

“Despite severe economic pressures in the United States, demand for solar energy grew tremendously in 2008,” Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the solar association, said in a statement. “Increasingly, solar energy has proven to be an economic engine for this country, creating thousands of jobs, unleashing billions in investment dollars and building new factories from New Hampshire to Michigan to Oregon.”

The report said grid-tied photovoltaic power led with a growth rate of 81 percent for the amount of installed power — 292 megawatts in 2008, up from 161 megawatts in 2007. Solar water heating installation grew at a 50 percent rate, but pool heating growth slowed by 3 percent in 2008.

While no concentrating solar power plants went online in the U.S. last year, 2009 projects in the pipeline will add more than 6 gigawatts of capacity. Among these are projects planned for California’s Mojave Desert, Arizona and Florida. The association says four gigawatts of solar energy can power up to a million households.

The industry also notes that several states have added or expanded incentives or requirements for solar energy, including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri and Ohio. A total of 28 states have renewable portfolio standards that require a defined amount of energy be generated from renewable sources, with 19 of these states mandating a portion come from solar or distributed sources.

But the emerging industry says it must have continued support from the federal government to realize it long-term potential. A total of 42 states and the District of Columbia now have net metering rules allowing owners of solar energy systems to sell excess electricity back to the grid. However, these rules differ from state to state and solar association executives say a unified national policy is necessary.

“To maintain our industry’s growth, create jobs and meet President Obama’s goal of doubling renewable energy production in the next three years, we need smart federal policies, such as a renewable portfolio standard with a specific solar provision that help to develop and deploy vast solar resources around the country,” said Resch. “Today’s solar technology combined with the right policies will help us double solar production in the United States and move us to a clean, energy future.”

U.S. photovoltaic manufacturing capacity grew by 65 percent, creating new jobs in states such as California, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Tennessee, the report says.

“The growth of solar manufacturing jobs in the U.S. was a breath of fresh air for communities hit hard by the recession. The recently enacted manufacturing tax credit will give further incentive to manufacturers, such as my company Suntech America, to invest in new operations in the U.S.” Roger Efird, chairman of SEIA and President of Suntech America, Inc., said in a statement. “With the right policies, solar deployment will continue robust growth and thousands of new green-collar jobs in manufacturing will be created in states where jobs are needed most.”

The association noted that the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 extends by eight years the federal solar investment tax credit that has helped spur U.S. market growth in recent years. The report predicts the extension will aid long-term planning and stimulate investment in solar.

Here are the states that led in grid-tied photovoltaic installation:

  • California — 178.6 megawatts (MW)
  • New Jersey — 22.5 MW
  • Colorado — 21.6 MW
  • Nevada — 13.9
  • Hawaii — 11.3 MW

For solar water heating systems, Hawaii led states, installing 37 percent of the total U.S. systems in 2008, followed by Florida (20 percent), California (7 percent), Colorado (5 percent) and Arizona (5 percent). The Mid-Atlantic States, an important emerging region for solar, installed 7 percent of solar water heating systems.

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