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Solar Installations Hit Record Numbers

by Melody M. Bomgardner
March 25, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 12

The U.S. installed a record 3.3 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity in 2012, a 76% increase over 2011, according to GTM Research. Of the total, close to 1.8 GW was part of utility-scale installations, some of which received Department of Energy loan guarantees. Eight of the 10 largest projects operating today were completed in 2012. The spike in installations was spurred by 27% lower costs for solar panel systems, based in turn on a significant decline in solar module prices. In the fourth quarter, the cost per watt of basic solar modules sank to 68 cents compared with $1.15 per year earlier. U.S. solar growth will slow as utilities approach renewable energy goals, GTM says, but it estimates that an additional 4.3 GW of installations will make 2013 another record year. Meanwhile, Japan is expected to boost solar installations by a whopping 120% to 5 GW of new capacity in 2013, according to IHS iSuppli. The country has initiated a generous feed-in tariff as part of a plan to move away from nuclear power. The increase would make Japan the second-largest solar market after China.


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