Predictions by right-wind pundits that the US solar industry is wrecked on the rocks are definitely premature, new figures from GTM Research show. In fact, the third quarter of 2011 was the best ever for American solar power installers.
Add to that a new announcement from China that its target for solar power installed by 2015 has been increased by 50%.
Though popularly and politically portrayed as a rivalry between the US and China over solar power—to the point that both nations have instigated investigations into each other's solar promotion practices—from the perspective of the planet, particularly the climate, it doesn't really matter where more renewable energy is installed as long as it displaces fossil fuel power plants. It's global emissions that matter first, national emissions second, and personal emissions third.
But, the details...
For the third quarter of 2011 in the US:
There were 449 megawatts of grid-connected PV installed in the third quarter alone, putting the cumulative yearly total above 1 gigawatt for the first time. And that's with the fourth quarter, traditionally the quarter with the most activity, yet to come. By the time 2011 is over, there could be 1.7 GW of new PV in the US. Perhaps most striking was that the third-quarter numbers were 140 percent higher than the third quarter figures from 2010. (Renewable Energy World)
Interestingly, of that 449 MW of new solar PV, utility installations were the largest percentage, and showed marked increase from previous quarters in 2011 and 2010. Non-residential solar power was slightly less that utility installations, with residential installations trailing far behind either. Residential installations have been remarkably constant over the past two years, hovering around slightly over 50 MW per quarter.
And for the situation in China: Reuters reports that the government has increased its solar power target to 15 GW by 2015, with wind power to reach 100 GW. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster China increased its solar target to 10 GW. Either figure is a large increase as China had less than 1 GW of solar power installed at the end of last year.