Solid growth for US PV sector in Q2

The United States installed 832MW of PV in the second quarter as the utility sector showed strong growth, a 15% improvement from the first quarter, according to a report released by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Cumulative operating PV capacity in the U.S. now stands at 8,858 MW.

Separately, they forecast that 4.4GW of PV and 912MW of concentrating solar power will be installed in 2013, versus 3.4GW of PV and no CSP in 2012.

The second quarter was surpassed only by fourth quarter 2012 when 1,311MW was installed, and a 1.5% increase from a year earlier.

The top ten states for second quarter PV installations were California, Arizona, New Jersey, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

The utility sector completed 38 projects totaling 452MW in new generating capacity, 42% growth from first quarter. All ten of the largest projects were in either California or Arizona, reflecting the utility market’s continued dependence on a few key markets.

The utility PV pipeline in the second quarter grew marginally to 12.1GW with power purchase agreements in place and 4.1GW under construction.

The report cautions that utilities in a number of key states, notably California, have slowed their procurement of power from new solar projects, leaving some developers with stranded early-stage assets.

While most signed PPAs to date have been driven primarily by state renewable portfolio standards, the next wave will likely need to be driven by cost-competitiveness, it says.

“So the question for the US utility market is when utilities will begin to consider centralized solar a viable, economic source of generation,” the report adds. “Some developers argue this transition has already begun, while others anticipate a slow ramp over the course of a decade or more.”

Meanwhile, non-residential PV growth remains tepid, down 11% in the first half versus a year earlier. Residential installations in the second quarter were flat versus the first quarter.

Quarter-over-quarter, the installed price for PV declined across all market segments from $3.36/watt to $3.05/watt, while dropping 11.1% from a year earlier. The capacity-weighted number is heavily influenced by the volume of utility-scale solar installations. Utility PV capacity accounted for 54% of second quarter installations, up from 44% in the first quarter.

On a year-to-year basis, residential system prices fell 11.5% in the second quarter from $5.43/watt to $4.81/watt. Non-residential prices also declined 14.7% from $4.35/watt to $3.71/watt. Utility system prices fell from $2.60/watt to $2.10/watt.

No CSP was installed in the second quarter.BrightSource Energy’s 392 MW (AC)Ivanpah CSP project is on schedule to deliver electricity to the grid in late 2013