Photovoltaic solar installations in the United States soared 76% to more than 3.3 gigawatts in 2012, helped in part by the completion of a number of large-scale utility projects in the West, according to a report released on Wednesday.
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Eight of the 10 largest U.S. PV projects were completed last year. The utility market more than doubled from 2011 to reach 1.78 gigawatts, according to a report by GTM Research commissioned by the Solar Energy Industries Association.
But the residential solar market also grew dramatically in 2012, climbing 62% to 488 MW. Solar leasing, which allows homeowners to avoid the hefty upfront cost of a solar system by paying a monthly fee for their panels, has helped accelerate the residential market. More than half of all residential systems were owned by a third party and leased to the homeowner, according to the report. The third party-owned market is expected to become a $5.7 billion market by 2016.
Non-residential installations rose 26% to 1,043 MW.
Falling prices on solar installations have helped spur adoption of the renewable energy systems. The average price of a solar system in the United States declined 26.6% last year, the report said.
A slowdown in the utility market will lead to slower growth in PV installations this year, according to the report, which predicted an overall increase of 29% in solar installations to 4.3 GW in 2013. The utility market is expected to slow down as states grow close to reaching their goals for renewable power generation.