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Harnessing the Power of the Sun, One Solar Panel at a Time

Over the past several years, solar power has taken off. With residential, non-residential and utility-sized projects popping up all over the country, solar power is an environmentally-friendly and sustainable alternative form of energy that’s continuing to grow.

From rooftop solar panels on homes and businesses to ground-mounted utility solar projects, we are harnessing the power of the sun to fuel our electrical needs, one solar panel at a time.

Here are four examples of growth within the solar industry that’ll quickly illustrate how far we’ve come in the past few years, and where we’re headed in the future.

Solar energy accounted for 32% of all new electricity generating capacity

According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. solar industry grew 34% in 2014 compared to 2013. Solar power accounted for 32% of all new electricity generating capacity in the U.S., coming in after natural gas which generated 42% of new electric capacity. 

(Image Source: SEIA)

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Cool infographic depicts 2013 Top 10 Solar States

The latest infographic from Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA) ranks the Top 10 Solar States based on solar capacity installed in 2013. It also includes the number of megawatts installed per state, number of houses powered per megawatt of solar added, and facts about each state. SEIA also shows a remixed version of the rankings based on the number of solar jobs added in 2013, cumulative solar capacity, price decline in 2012-2013, and percentage of new electricity generation fromSolar.

Solar was the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the U.S., exceeded only by natural gas. It is the first time in over fifteen years that the U.S. installed more solar capacity than Germany. Learn more at www.seia.org/research-resources/2013-top-10-solar-states

According to the SEIA, the U.S. installed 930 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaics (PV) in Q3 2013, up 20 percent over Q2 2013 and 35 percent over Q3 2012. This represents the second largest quarter in the history of the U.S. solar market and the largest quarter ever for residential PV installations. Even more importantly, 2013 was a first in over 15 years that the U.S. installed more solar capacity than world leader Germany, according to GTM Research forecasts.

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SEIA Q3 Report 2013 Shares Glowing Reviews on Solar Industry

GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association® (SEIA®), Solar Market Insight: 3rd Quarter 2013 report shows that it has been a stellar year for the solar business in the United States. This quarter's report states that in 2013 Photovoltaic (PV) installations continued to rise, increasing 41% over 2012 to reach 4,751 MW. According to SEIA, there were 52 utility PV projects completed in Q3 2013, totaling 539 MW of capacity. The majority of these projects came from California with one 32 MW project that was completed in Nevada by SunEdison.

Solar was the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the U.S., exceeded only by natural gas. It is the first time in over fifteen years that the U.S. installed more solar capacity than Germany, talk about the source of power!The residential market continues to see an upswing in the U.S. solar market with PV installations up 49% year-over-year and it is anticipated further expansion up to 52% by the end of Q4. Nearly 31,000 individual residential installations were completed in the third quarter, bringing the cumulative total in the U.S. to 360,000 with California and Arizona showing the strongest in residential growth. The non-residential market continues to struggle but showed 4% growth over 2012 due to commercial, government, school and non-profit installations.

Key Figures:

The U.S. installed 4,751 MW of solar PV in 2013, up 41% over 2012 and nearly fifteen times the amount installed in 2008.There is now a total of 12.1 GW of PV and 918 MW of CSP operating in the U.SThere were 140,000 individual solar installations in the U.S. in 2013, and a total of over 440,000 systems operating in total today.More solar has been installed in the U.S. in the last 18 months than in the 30 years prior.The market value of all PV installations completed in 2013 was $13.7 billion.Solar accounted for 29% of all new electricity generation capacity in 2013, up from 10% in 2012. This made solar the second-largest source of new generating capacity behind natural gas.Weighted average PV system prices fell 15% in 2013, reaching a new low of $2.59/W in the fourth quarter.SEIA forecasts 26% PV installation growth in 2014, with installations reaching nearly 6 GW. Growth will occur in all segments but will be most rapid in the residential market.The U.S. installed 410 MW of concentrating solar (CSP) in 2013, increasing total CSP capacity in the U.S. more than 80%The wave of concentrating solar power installations slated for completion at the end of 2013 into 2014 kicked off with the 280 MWac Solana project and the Genesis Solar project's initial 125 MWac phase. In early 2014, Brightsource's iconic Ivanpah project also began operating and SolarReserve's Crescent Dunes project began commissioning

President Obama Gives His Stamp of Approval for Renewable EnergyPresident Obama supports renewable energy stating government should lead by example, targeting 20% renewable energy use by 2020 for all 500,000 federal buildings. President Obama has urged the federal government to step up its use of renewable energy sources in order to reach a 2020 target of 20% clean energy use.

Solar Outlook for 2014The U.S. Solar Market Insight predicts that 2014 will be about defining solutions. Solar is not bound by cost, but rather by its role in the electricity sector and as it becomes more mainstream from a technical, market and regulatory perspective will become one of the most important issues in the industry.

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Solarwebinar Recap: The Benefits of Steel Tube in Solar Racking Structures

Over 40 people tuned in yesterday to attend The Benefits of Steel Tube in Solar Racking Structures webinar, held by Solar Power World and sponsored by Wheatland Tube. OYA Solar, a premiere developer of Solar PV systems in Ontario, led the webinar discussing the recent developments from Phase 1 of its solar roofing project with Atlas Tube.The OYA/Atlas Tube roofing project is unique in that it utilized 100% steel tube for the racking structure. When complete, this 3.5 MW project will be the largest of its kind in Canada, and one of the top 5 largest in North America. With an annual power output of almost 900,000 kWh, this installation will supply enough electricity to power 60 homes for a whole year.The webinar also provided a cost benefit analysis and a comprehensive comparative analysis of using steel tube for rooftop racking structures, versus more traditional rooftop options such as aluminum. There were excellent questions from participants throughout, namely surrounding the galvanization process.Atlas Tube live-tweeted some of the highlights during the presentation:

If you attended the presentation, or have any questions regarding this solar project, let us know! Leave a comment below.


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Webinar: Using Steel in Solar Racking and Mounting

Whether you're installing a utility-scale ground-mounted, carport structure, or rooftop solar system, JMC Steel Group can provide the galvanized round, square and rectangular steel tubing that you need.

Join our live webinar, Using Steel in Solar Racking and Mounting, Tuesday, July 30 at 2 p.m. Steel supplier JMC Steel and racking manufacturer Patriot Solar Group detail the latest in steel-working knowledge and how best to apply the metal in solar racking and mounting.

Attend this webinar to:

Learn the applications where steel outperforms other materials Understand the types of ASTM specification used in steel racking and supportGain insights into the galvanization processConsider secondary fabrication options See how turn-key customization can save designers and manufacturers time and money Find out more about America’s No. 1 recycled material — steel Identify how the use of steel in solar applications helps achieve LEED credits

When it comes to solar installations, steel provides a number of advantages that you may not already know. 

Register today at: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/367089634.

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U.S. Military Seek Renewable Energy Solutions

In May 2013, the Solar Energy Industries Association released the report, "Enlisting the Sun: Powering the U.S. Military with Solar Energy," which included the U.S. Military's plan to introduce renewable energy sources into every day practices. In the past year alone, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) spent more than $20 billion on energy and consumed over five billion gallons of oil.

In attempt to comply with the DOD's objective requiring 25 percent of total facility energy consumption to come from renewable energy sources by 2025, U.S. Military teams have enacted aggressive tactics. To date, the Navy has installed more than either the Army or Air Force, but all U.S. Military branches continue to make solar a vital piece of the efforts to meet their renewables targets.

Cost effectiveness is not the only reason the U.S. Military is turning to solar energy relief.  Solar energy provides:

Aid for the DOD’s efforts to procure more secure and independent energyReprieve from  million dollar expenditures, which in turn can be reinvested to ensure more ready and able armed forcesA clean energy source that offsets the military’s greenhouse gas emissions

The growing adoption of solar projects across Navy, Air Force, and Army bases has led to at least 31 states moving forward in the solar market. Solar’s rapidly growing role in the military will ensure a more able, efficient, and secure armed forces in the years ahead.

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Solar Forecast: Installations, Prices, Employment and the Future

All information from SEIA/GTM Research “U.S. Solar Market Insight: Q1 2013” unless noted otherwise.

Since publishing its first quarterly findings in 2010, the Solar Energy Industries Association has documented and forecasted the volatile environment of the U.S. solar market and evaluated its implications for the energy industry at large. The report, which breaks down the solar industry into three segments: residential, non-residential and utility, measures installation growth, price decline, economic progress and forecasts future market conditions.

This year’s U.S. solar market had a strong first quarter of what is expected to be another record for the industry. Photovoltaic (PV) installations grew 33 percent over Q1 2012. Year-over-year, the residential market grew 53 percent, but the non-residential market was down 20 percent — reflecting the general outlook for the year. The non-residential market will take more time to adjust after being hit hard by a general decrease in state-level incentives.

While all segment predictions remain strong, the utility market leads the solar industry’s development. Despite utility installations decline from Q4 2012, they were up more than 130 percent from Q1 2012. This market generally experiences a boom in the fourth quarter and the SEIA expects the same pattern to hold in 2013.

Increasing Installations

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Top Commercial Brands are Solar Energy Customers

Why are some of the largest and most cost efficient companies turning to solar for energy consumed by on-site facilities? It’s pretty simple; they want to continue to be the largest and most cost efficient companies. Iconic brands like WalMart, Costco, IKEA, Kohl’s, and Walgreens are synonymous with proficient management, low overhead and profitable business models. And now they’re deploying record level solar systems because they see a smart investment comprised of decreasing installation costs, innovative financing options, and the ability to stabilize future energy expenses.

When the price of commercial solar systems dropped almost 14 percent in 2012, advantageous companies saw an opportunity to reduce a portion of their operating expenses by controlling their energy costs. Solar energy provides an appealing choice with predictable prices for 20-30 years, reducing utility price volatility for large organizations managing long terms budgets. 



 A report by Solar Energy Industries Association and Vote Solar Initiative analyzed 42 companies that deployed at least 312 megawatts (MV) of photovoltaic (PV) capacity at more than 750 locations in at least 26 states and Puerto Rico. According to the study, the 20 companies with the highest installed capacity have deployed at least 279 MV, enough to supply all the electricity needs of 46,500 American households.  From large organizations to small business, deploying solar energy cuts operating costs, improves the bottom line, and increases profits, thus allowing brands to focus on their core business.

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U.S. Solar Industry Achieves its Second Best Quarter Ever

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending Solar Power International, an annual conference sponsored by SEIA and SEPA, which featured major speakers such as President Bill Clinton as well as leaders from every business sector, technical presentations from universities and renewable energy laboratories that highlighted solar technology and applications from around the country.

As quoted by the Huffington Post, President Clinton stated at SPI that he feels strongly about this industry sector.

"We've got to get the basic facts out there first, about our capacity to produce this energy, about current job creation and about future job prospects too," said President Clinton.

In synch with President Clinton and based on the latest data, we also believe that solar energy is solidly positioned to become a mainstream energy source. A recently published report, U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2nd Quarter 2012, finds that U.S. solar achieved its second-best quarter in history, having installed 742 megawatts of solar power, with the best quarter on record for the utility-scale solar market segment.

Below are five key takeaways from Solar Power International and the U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2nd Quarter 2012, issued by GTM Research and SEIA:

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Why the Market Shows Us We Need Solar Construction Standards

A major component of the solar industry is the design, manufacturing and installation of the infrastructure used to support solar panel array systems. While panel technology continues to improve and become more efficient, infrastructure solutions have evolved at a slower pace. This begs the question: should the solar industry develop its own set of construction standards? With reports illuminating North America’s increasing demand for green energy, Wheatland Tube supports the development of industry-wide standards that drive consistency, efficiency, longevity and cost savings.

Here is an overview of the obstacles facing the solar industry today and our case for a set of industry standards.

Today’s challenges:

1. Design, installation and construction comprise of 50 percent of total cost.

The average cost of a completed PV system dropped by 17 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011. Overall, the average price of a solar panel has declined by 47 percent since Q1 2011. While these price drops are beneficial for the end user, the sharp fall in prices has put a serious strain on solar manufacturers. (Data provided by SEIA.)

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SEIA Q1 Report – A Bright Spot for the U.S. Solar Market

Whether you’re a distributor, contractor or engineer, you know the solar energy business is growing rapidly and requires a steel structure customized for assembling solar panels. You also know that as the solar industry grows, so does its impact on the economy.  But did you know that the average cost of a completed PV system dropped by 17 percent in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter of 2011?

Amid uncertainty in the global economy, the U.S. began 2012 with the second highest quarter for solar installations ever, according to a recent report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association. As a result of a strong first quarter, the outlook for 2012 has improved and installations will likely total 3.3 GW. Overall, the U.S. Solar Market Insight report predicts annual solar PV installations for 2012 may exceed 3,200 megawatts, 75 percent greater than last year’s total and 15 percent higher than previous annual forecasts for 2012.That’s good news for anyone who wants a real edge in the industry.

Staying Vigilant

While these numbers are noteworthy, the SEIA advises we remain cautious. Overcoming the U.S. solar market’s greatest challenge, to ultimately drive the price down to traditional fossil fuel sources levels, relies on increasing the production and distribution of solar energy technology.

Not to mention, according to recent headlines, U.S. solar panel manufacturers continue to face increased global competition and uncertainty surrounding global trade disputes.

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Reflections on the Growth of the Solar Industry

Last week, I discussed three statistics from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) that demonstrate the momentum of the solar industry. This week, with the World Renewable Energy Forum underway, I want to look more closely at industry statistics, particularly at the nonresidential and utility sectors.

Growing Pains

The solar market often appears to be taking two steps forward and one step back. Government incentives are still essential to this market, so when programs change or expire, they threaten to hinder growth. The expiration of the Section 1603 Treasury Grants at the end of 2011 is an important example. Of course, an industry bolstered by government incentives is subject to the whims of politics and perception. When a high-profile setback like the Solyndra bankruptcy makes headlines, it can damage public perception and threaten to erode federal and state support.

A Historic Year

The SEIA’s U.S. Solar Market Insight Report calls 2011 a historic year with solar installations booming and 1,855 megawatts (MW) of PV solar systems installed — a 109 percent growth over 2010. Of particular interest for construction and solar racking companies is the fact that nonresidential installations grew 127 percent and utility installations grew 185 percent.

The market is concentrated in only a few states, with California representing 29 percent of the installations, New Jersey representing 17 percent and the next five most active states comprising 34 percent. While this may seem and to suggest regional limitations on opportunity, the fact is that this market is still in its infancy. As it continues to make economic sense for businesses across the U.S. to invest in solar, they will — with or without government incentives. Indeed, in 2009 only two states installed more the 50 MW of capacity, in 2010 it was five states and in 2011, that number grew to eight states.


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Three Key Solar Industry Statistics

While solar power often appears to be an issue outside of the mainstream, industry statistics tell the story of a robust industry with strong momentum that is on track to become a key driver of the U.S. economy. 

As the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) states on its home page, "Every energy resource deployed in the U.S. has approximately 30 years of innovation and early adoption before mainstream adoption." 

Solar energy is solidly poised to become a mainstream energy source. The progress has been impressive. Below are three statistics from the SEIA that demonstrate the industry's momentum and its growing economic importance.



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