The Solar Energy Industries Association released its 2008 U.S. Solar Industry Year in Review, highlighting a third year of record growth. The report notes that 1,265 megawatts (MW) of solar power of all types were installed in 2008, bringing total U.S. solar power capacity up 17 percent to 8,775 MW. The 2008 figure included 139 MWTh (thermal equivalent) of solar water heating, 762 MWTh of pool heating and an estimated 21 MW of solar space heating and cooling.

"Despite severe economic pressures in the United States, demand for solar energy grew tremendously in 2008," said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA, in the announcement. "Increasingly, solar energy has proven to be an economic engine for this country, creating thousands of jobs, unleashing billions in investment dollars and building new factories from New Hampshire to Michigan to Oregon.”

Solar water heating installation grew at a 50 percent rate in 2008 (139 MWTh) over 2007 (93 MWTh) and pool heating growth slowed by 3 percent in 2008 (762 MWTh) from 2007 (785 MWTh). While no new concentrating solar power plants came online in the United States this past year, projects now in the pipeline add up to more than 6 gigawatts (6,000 MW). Among these are projects planned for California’s Mojave Desert, Arizona and Florida. According to SEIA, 4 gigawatts of solar energy can power up to a million households.

The organization is calling for “smart” federal polices: “To maintain our industry’s growth, create jobs and meet President Obama’s goal of doubling renewable energy production in the next three years, we need smart federal policies, such as a renewable portfolio standard with a specific solar provision that help to develop and deploy vast solar resources around the country,” said Resch. “Today’s solar technology combined with the right policies will help us double solar production in the United States and move us to a clean, energy future.” States Lead The Way  States that led for solar water heating systems were Hawaii, which installed 37 percent of the total U.S. systems in 2008, followed by Florida (20 percent), California (7 percent), Colorado (5 percent) and Arizona (5 percent). The Mid-Atlantic States, an important emerging region for solar, installed 7 percent of solar water heating systems.

Several states added or expanded incentives or requirements for solar energy including California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri and Ohio. To date, 28 states have renewable portfolio standards that require a certain amount of energy be generated from renewable sources, with 19 of these states mandating a portion come from solar or distributed sources. (Distributed generation occurs on land and buildings close to where the energy is used rather than central station power that is transported via power lines.)

“The growth of solar manufacturing jobs in the U.S. was a breath of fresh air for communities hit hard by the recession. The recently enacted manufacturing tax credit will give further incentive to manufacturers, such as my company Suntech America, to invest in new operations in the U.S.,” noted Roger Efird, chairman of SEIA and President of Suntech America Inc. “With the right policies, solar deployment will continue robust growth and thousands of new green-collar jobs in manufacturing will be created in states where jobs are needed most.”

See the full report here.

Source: The Solar Energy Industries Association