First Solar stays at top of US market

The US added 976MW of new PV capacity during the second quarter of the year, with an enormous pipeline – particularly in the commercial rooftop segment – promising blockbuster growth in the coming years.

US module giants First Solar and SunPower were the top two suppliers during the most recent quarter, followed by a quartet of Chinese players – Yingli, Trina, Canadian Solar and Suntech.

The US is expected to add 4.22GW of PV capacity this year, a year-on-year increase of 17%, according to market researcher NPD Solarbuzz.

The high-margin US market will grow an even stronger 26% next year to hit 5.3GW, with the US on pace to account for 20% of the global market over the next five years.

To put that in perspective, the US accounted for just 6% of global PV demand as recently as 2011, according to figures by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

In contrast, the US wind market is set to shrink dramatically this year, a victim of stop-and-start policymaking in Washington.

The PV pipeline in the US now stretches beyond 44GW, more than half of that capacity slated for installation on commercial rooftops, Solarbuzz says.

A disproportionately high amount – 72% – of the new capacity came from the ground-mount segment, as a number of huge projects, including California Valley Solar Ranch and phase 3 of Topaz, were brought on line.

California alone added 521MW of capacity, a new quarterly record for a US state.

While traditionally strong markets such as California, Arizona and New Jersey all performed well, a new crop of hot markets is rapidly emerging – including North Carolina, where installations are forecast to grow 80% this year, to 285MW, according to Solarbuzz.