48% of all new electricity capacity addedDuring the first quarter of 2013, the U.S. has added 723 megawatts (MW) of new solar capacity to its power grid, a 33% growth rate year-on-year. This accounted for over 48% of all new electric capacity installed during that period. According to the SEIA: "Overall, these installations represent the best first quarter of any given year for the industry. In addition, the residential and utility market segments registered first-quarter highs with 164 MW and 318 MW respectively." The residential segment had particularly impressive growth, with a 53% increase year-on-year!
The chart below shows how each segment fared and how it compares to past quarters:
Notice the huge spike for utility solar at the end of 2012; this timing was caused by government incentives.
With the Q1 numbers, cumulative operating photovoltaic capacity in the U.S. now stands at 7.9 GW, and if you add back concentrating solar thermal and other non-PV sources, the total stands around 8.5 GW.
The U.S. is expected to add 5.3 GW of solar electric capacity in 2013, enough to power more than 960,000 average American homes. The average residential PV system price fell below $5.00 per watt, while the average non-residential system price fell below $4.00 per watt.
Cleaning up the power grid is one of the essential, sine qua non, things that we must do to create a sustainable future. No way around it, we need lots of power that comes from sources that don't run a chemical experiment with our atmosphere by pumping billions of tons of CO2 into and spew various pollutants (mercury, NOx, PM, etc). That's why it's important to keep an eye on the growth of renewable energy and support policies that can increase the speed of the transition (a carbon tax would work wonders, for example, even if it was revenue neutral and other taxes were cut by the same amount).