Solar panel power is rocking it in the U.S. in 2012

Photo by Katie Fehrenbacher/Gigaom

You might not believe it when you listen to political campaign speeches, or look at the balance sheets of solar panels makers, but solar panel power projects are rockin’ in the free world in 2012. Well, in the U.S. specifically. Installations in the U.S. of solar panels more than doubled in the second quarter of 2012 with 742 MW installed, according to a report from the Solar Energy Industry Association and GTM Research.

This year 3.2 GW of solar panels projects are estimated to be installed, which includes both utility-scale solar panel projects, and solar panels installed on rooftops for homes and businesses. Utility-scale solar projects — like the kind that SunPower and PG&E announced last week — made up more than half of the quarter’s installations, at 447 MW and with 20 projects completed. It was the largest quarter ever for utility solar panel installations, says the report.

The trends behind this solar panel wave in the U.S. are rock bottom solar panel prices, and policies in some key states, like California, Arizona, and New Jersey. However, the report authors estimate that the growth in U.S. solar panel installations will slow down in the second half of this year and next year.

There’s already a sizable amount of solar capacity in California. According to the New York Times blog Green, in August California’s utility solar power projects generated about 1 GW during a peak time, which is about as big as a large coal of nuclear plant. And there’s 5.16 GW of solar panel power spread across close to 250,000 solar panel systems total in the U.S.

Beyond the bright spot of solar panel installations, much of the U.S. solar industry that does manufacturing is really struggling. The industry is gathering this week in Orlando for the huge solar convention Solar Power International and will no doubt address the concerns, as well as the bright spots.

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