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26 November 2014 | by Gabor Chodkowski-Gyurics

US solar power market records unprecedented growth

US solar power market records unprecedented growth
The US’ solar energy market is undergoing unprecedented boom, with “more solar power installed in the last 18 months than in 30 years prior,” according to recent data from the Department of Energy released on November 26. This rapid growth is bound to continue, with several major investments in solar power production and infrastructure underway, the DoE also said.

In a recent landmark development, Topaz Solar, world’s largest solar plant was put into operation in late November in California. The plant covers 26 square kilometers holding 9,000 PV panels of a combined 550 MW capacity. The farm is operated by MidAmerican Renewables, which took over the project from First Solar in February 2012 for $2 billion (€1.64 billion).

Despite this undeniably impressive growth, the bulk of installed solar power capacity in the U.S is based on utility-scale generation, its growth constrained by lack of transmission and distribution lines. On 2 October, however, the DoE announced that it made $15 million (€12 million) available to promote integration of distributed, on-site solar energy systems into the US electricity grid.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk, entrepreneur behind PayPal, Space-X and Tesla electric cars, began construction of a $5 billion solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, under the banner of SolarCity, the leading US provider of small-scale photovoltaic installations. The state of New York is contributing $750 million to the project. SolarCity will be the biggest investment in US PV industry to date. It is expected to produce 1 GW worth of PV panels a year.

U.S. solar power generation capacity has grown thirteen-fold since President Barack Obama first took office, increasing from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 15.9 GW today, according to DoE highlights, enough to power approximately 3.2 million households.


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