Developers installed 85 percent more solar panels in the United States in the first quarter than a year earlier, led by strong growth in commercial projects and demand in New Jersey, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Total U.S. installations were 506 megawatts in the quarter and may reach 3,300 megawatts this year, about 11 percent of the 2012 global market, the Washington trade group said this month in its quarterly market report.
That will make the U.S. the fourth-largest solar market this year, and one of the few countries where growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, according to GTM Research, a Boston consulting company that prepared the report with the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Falling prices are making solar energy an economical energy choice for U.S. homeowners and businesses.
The economics have improved dramatically, with companies realizing its a good hedge against rising energy prices, Rhone Resch, chief executive officer of SEIA, said in an interview.
Non-residential solar projects, which include commercial, government and nonprofit companies, totaled 288.8 megawatts, up 77 percent from a year earlier, according to the report.
New Jersey, the top solar state, added 174 megawatts in the quarter.
The price of solar panels dropped 49 percent in the past year as manufacturers, mainly based in China, increased production and triggered a global oversupply.