For the third quarter of 2011, solar installations in the U.S. broke a record: 449 megawatts of new capacity in just three months, according to a report by the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA). The fourth quarter is expected to be even larger, with many end-of-year projects coming on line.
The report cited a strong residential market, utility-scale project completions, and effective policies, all combined with the decreasing costs of solar panels. It’s a 140% growth year-over-year, but SEIA warns that the blistering growth is threatened by the potential expiration of the Treasury Department’s 1603 Program. The program allows customers to receive a cash grant rather than the usual tax credit. The effect on the Treasury is the same, but during a down economy, this format lubricates the transaction better than tax credits.
The overall effect has been more than 1,000 MW of new solar online in the first three quarters of 2011, $3.5 billion in private solar investment, and tens of thousands of new jobs. But the looming expiration of the 1603 program once again (cue broken record) puts the solar industry on unstable footing in terms of long term planning.
Vote Solar, a non-profit organization promoting the solar industry and stable economic policies to expedite a clean energy future, is helping drive citizen support for extending the initiative. Click here to show your support!