Please forgive us the journalistic conceit of collecting these year-end trends — it’s a necessary evil we all put ourselves through. In solar, this year is a bit more nerve-wracking than last. Here are ten trends in a particularly dynamic and pivotal year that will echo into 2012.
In no particular order:
David Crane, the president and CEO of NRG Energy observed, “In the last two years, the delivered cost of energy from PV was cut in half. NRG expects the cost to fall in half again in the next two years, which would make solar power less expensive than retail electricity in roughly 20 states, he said. The expected drop in solar costs has “the potential to revolutionize the hub-and-spoke power system, which currently makes up the power industry,” quoted in Platts.
The United States finally passed the one gigawatt of PV installed in a year mark, a barrier long eclipsed by Germany and Italy.
The third quarter was a record with the U.S. installing 449 megawatts of PV, more than the U.S. installed in all of 2009. 2011 looks like it will finish with more than 1.5 gigawatts installed in the U.S., a massive increase due to utility deployments, the 1603 Treasury grant, and a viable third-party residential finance mechanism, up from the 887 megawatts installed in 2010.
The U.S. solar energy industry was one of the fastest-growing sectors of the American economy in 2011. In total, cumulative grid-connected solar electric installations have reached more than 3 gigawatts.
On October 19, SolarWorld and some unnamed solar companies, acting as CASM, the Coalition of American Solar Manufacturers filed an official claim with the U.S.Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission alleging that China was dumping solar panels in the U.S. and providing unfair subsidies to its solar industries. We have covered the issue extensively, ranging from claims by CASM to counterclaims by CASE. Obama weighed in on the matter as did CASE’s Jigar Shah, SolarWorld’s Gordon Brinser as well as the Chinese module vendors. Chinese organizations have accused the U.S. of dumping polysilicon in China.
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