Environment Forum

Why the solar industry is booming while the wind business faces tough year

RTR2GMCH.jpgThese days there’s not a lot of industries that can report booming growth year after year (the one-company juggernaut that is Apple excepted). But it’s blue skies for the photovoltaic industry, according to a new report showing that solar installations in the United States are expected to have grown 62 percent in 2010 from the previous year.

The survey released by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research found that as of the close of the third quarter, 530 megawatts of photovoltaic modules had been installed so far this year, 22 percent more than the total for 2009.

“Early fourth-quarter data suggests that there will be a late-year surge in installations, resulting in total 2010 demand of 855 MW, well above the current pace,” the report’s authors wrote.

And there’s plenty of room for further growth. The U.S. in 2009, for instance, accounted for just 6.5 percent of global photovoltaic demand.

And solar is far from a national industry at this point. In the third quarter of this year, five states ­– California, New Jersey, Florida, Arizona, and Colorado – created 74 percent of the demand in the U.S., according to the report.

Report: U.S. utility-scale photovoltaic industry set to boom

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With NRG Energy’s announcement on Tuesday that it will invest $450 million investment in a California photovoltaic project, the New Jersey-based power provider has pledged a total of $750 million for big solar plants in the past two months.

A new report from GTM Research indicates why NRG sees such sunny prospects for the solar business. According to the researchers, utilities in the United States already have signed contracts for 5,400 megawatts’ worth of photovoltaic power plants that will be built by 2014 with another 10,100 megawatts in negotiation.

The U.S. utility-scale photovoltaic market is expected to grow from $1 billion in 2010 to $8 billion by 2015, the report said.

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