Photovoltaic finish: Will the US pip Germany?

After a surge of installations in the third quarter, just a few megawatts is set to decide who has bragging rights between the US and its long-time solar superior, Germany.

The United States is set to overtake Germany in annual solar installations next quarter for the first time in 15 years, The US Solar Energy Industry Association predicts.

US installers added a massive 930 megawatts of photovoltaics in the third quarter, driven by a spike in utility projects, putting the Californian-led solar insurgency within striking distance of Germany.

SEIA, in conjunction with GTM Research, predicts that in the fourth quarter the US will bring total installations to the year to 4268 megawatts, a small but symbolic 68 MW more than Germany's predicted total.

"This represents the second largest quarter in the history of the US solar market and the largest quarter ever for residential PV installations," SEIA said.

The situation arises after a massive third quarter in the US which saw 930 MW of photovoltaics installed across the nation, up 20 per cent over the second quarter and 35 per cent over 2012's third quarter.


Graph for Photovoltaic finish: Will the US pip Germany?

Source: SEIA

The US has already this year surpassed the 10GW mark, and this year the nation is expected to expand its overall solar array by 27 per cent, largely driven by residential solar which is predicted to finish 52 per cent up.

However, the third quarter surge was driven largely by a spike in utility projects, with residential uptake increasing steadily (although a record 186MW was installed) and commercial solar tracking downwards (graph below). Utility projects are expected to drive growth again in the key final quarter, with the SEIA expecting the market segment to be the first to add 1GW in a single quarter.

"It remains clear that this will be a banner year for solar in the United States," the SEIA said.

"By the end of the year, more than 400,000 individual solar projects will be operating across the country."

Graph for Photovoltaic finish: Will the US pip Germany?

Source: SEIA

Looking forward, the association says that commercial solar will rebound after a flat 2013, with PV a number of state-level programs likely to boost the segment, as well as "continued expansion in California and Massachusetts".

The industry says that while the utility sector has a while to run, it's reaching its zenith, with the rate of newly signed contracts slowing leading to its replacement as the number one US market segment in as early as 2016, an event set to lead to a switch to emerging markets for utility-scale US developers.

The association also says lawmakers have generally been favourable to the solar sector in the US in 2013, citing net metering decisions in states such as California and Arizona as well as solar deployment initiatives led by Minnesota and Georgia.

Graph for Photovoltaic finish: Will the US pip Germany?

Source: SEIA