Last year was a bright spot for the solar industry, despite dark economic clouds and forecasts that rolled in during 2008’s final few months.
SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) just released its yearly review, which identified 2008 as the third in a string of record growth years.
The numbers were for the US solar market, with a highlight of 1,265 megawatts (MW) of new installed solar power. The figure includes all forms of the energy resource, from photovoltaic (PV) to home and water heating. PV modules accounted for 342 MW of that total. A conversion formula is used to express solar heating capacity in an electrical equivalent.
Returns on investment for solar electric installations typically take longer than heating applications. Yet while thermal power has comprised the lion’s share of the solar market since 2000, the percentage of PV growth for the same period has been greater and more stable.
States also made strides last year in terms of solar legislation. Already a leader in the solar hot water arena, Hawaii further bolstered that title last year when it began requiring that all new construction include the technology.
The solar industry has not been immune from the economic slowdown, of course. A recent survey revealed almost nine in ten solar companies reported they’d been affected by the downturn. The trend among installers showed they are receiving about the same number of inquiries about solar, but fewer of those are translating into actual installations since the economy soured.
With a slew of government laws and incentives passed from late 2008 to the present favoring the industry, the only seeming obstacle to a US solar renaissance is a dour economic outlook. Regardless, the future for solar appears strong.
Two massive solar installations are underway in the US – the 550 MW Topaz Solar Farm and the 250 MW California Valley Solar Ranch. When finished, they will take titles as the world’s largest.
Image Credit: Richard Masoner’s Flickr Photostream under a Creative Commons License.