It certainly was a historic year for the U.S. solar energy industry in 2011.
The market for photovoltaic installations continued to boom, as the U.S. installed 1,855 megawatts of PV, representing 109 percent growth over 2010, according to the U.S. Solar Market Insight 2011 Year-In-Review Report.
The report also said that the fourth quarter of 2011 saw 776 megawatts of PV installed, by far the most of any quarter in U.S. history.
Hawaii played a big part in this solar explosion, ranking 11th in the nation for PV installations. It moved up from 15th in 2010.
On top of this list is California, followed by New Jersey, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, which rounded out the top five.
This year, the report expects Hawaii to move up even higher on the PV installation list.
It predicts the state to finish up in fourth on the residential side and sixth in non-residential market.
Overall, Hawaii is expected to be in eighth place in 2012, when it’s all said and done.
But not all developments in 2011 were positive. According to the report done by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, with regard to installations, the highly valued 1603 Treasury Program expired at the end of the year, subsequently complicating the financing of many new solar projects.
As for manufacturing, though global PV module capacity grew more than 50 percent in 2011, throughout most of the year, global demand remained slow as a result of regulatory changes in Italy and tepid growth in Germany, the report said.
Solar panel prices went into a free-fall in the second quarter and refused to stabilize until the last weeks of 2011, ultimately falling more than 50 percent during the year.
This squeezed profit margins for every manufacturer, but it was particularly damaging for two types of companies: those that were less cost-competitive and those that were in the process of commercializing new technologies, like Honolulu-based Hoku Corp., which has put commercial production at its Idaho polysilicon plant on hold.
For more on the report, go to http://www.greentechmedia.com/research/ussmi.