Falling prices helped boost solar power installations in 2010, but so far, the outlook appears a little murky for 2011.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar industry trade group, U.S. commercial solar customers added 103 megawatts of capacity in the third quarter of 2010, which represents a 38% jump over the third quarter of 2009. More than 27,000 homes and businesses started solar power systems. Additionally, for the first time, the cost per installed watt fell under $6 (before tax breaks), with federal stimulus programs and state and local tax breaks pushing the final installed cost per watt down even further. Overall, by the end of 2010, the U.S. should have over 1 gigawatt of solar power installations (for these stats, solar power included photovoltaic, concentrating solar power, and other solar heating and cooling setups). On a state by state basis, the leaders are California, followed by New Jersey, Florida, Arizona and Colorado. Worldwide, demand for just photovoltaic solar power grew 196% to 10.6 gigawatts in the first nine months of 2010.
The picture for 2011 is a little cloudy, however. Big policy changes are about to take place in Europe in 2011, mostly reductions in subsidies for new solar projects. So the industry is expecting that growth will slow in 2011. This actually should reduce the overall costs for people looking to install new systems, as prices fall further due to possible overcapacity.