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Summary:

From low silicon and solar module prices to a rising amount of solar panels installed on rooftops, these five charts show that the future of solar is brighter than ever, despite the difficult times for solar manufacturers in 2012.

Despite solar manufacturers’ struggles with bankruptcies and an oversupply problem this year, 2012 actually witnessed a dramatic growth in the world’s use of solar power. In particular the amount of solar panels installed on rooftops in the U.S. soared in recent quarters, helped by new financing models by companies like SolarCity and rock-bottom silicon prices — the main ingredient in solar panels.

In these 5 charts, we track the growth of solar power:

1). The amount of solar energy produced in the U.S. has risen 500 percent in 2012 alone, according to the Energy Information Administration.

2). The increase in solar production has to do in part with the growth of solar panel installation and capacity in the U.S. Solar panel installation is expected to rise nearly 70 percent this year, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association’s third-quarter report.

3). SolarCity’s IPO in late 2012 was one of the rare success stories for solar and cleantech startups. While some solar stocks have taken hits this year — due to over supply and super low prices — SolarCity was able to go public and its stock rose 50 percent on its first day of trading. The company, which finances and installs rooftop solar panels, originally priced its shares lower than expected, but the company’s stock price remains relatively high.

4). The price of silicon — the main material in solar panels — has dropped by half in less than two years, making solar panels cheaper to produce and to buy. The low prices, in turn, have fueled the growth of solar panel installations.

5). As is common with new commodity industries that grow rapidly, solar cells and panels are now so cheap to produce and make that there’s an oversupply problem. According to SEIA, there’s now 70 GW worth of solar module manufacturing capacity, but the current world capacity for solar modules is only 31 GW.

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  1. Q3 technologies Tuesday, December 25, 2012

    Guess it’s about time alternate energy started becoming mainstream.

  2. This is indeed some good new as South Africa is signing deals with independent power producers for large scale solar projects. Lower prices will enables the technology to be adopted quicker.

  3. EcoFurnitureDesigner Wednesday, December 26, 2012

    Well said Q3! It sure is about time!! :o)

  4. A pity that the graphs, with the exception of no 5 (and possibly no 4 ; no details are given), deal almost exclusively with the situation in the United States, which is hardly a major player in solar power. Graphs dealing with the global situation would have been far more informative….

    Henri

  5. The first graph shows capacity, not actual production, from solar power. In other words, a calculated value based on industry estimates of output.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacity_factor#Capacity_factor_and_renewable_energy

  6. mytouchoftechnology Wednesday, December 26, 2012

    Dollar General sells a sidewalk solar light for $1.00. The price is lower but the local government still works against anyone trying to generate any type of ‘electric’ Once that is fixed solar will take off. Bye-Bye PP&G

  7. that little spike there must have been solyndra. Glad my taxes paid for that.

  8. Specialized FSR Solar bike ride on just under 15 watts solar power

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