Growth of solar power in 2009 in the US

Despite the economic downturn, the US solar industry capacity increased by 37% in 2009, registering unprecedented figures regarding both installed capacity and generated power.

The announcement was made by the SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association), which noted that the turnover of this industry reached $4 billion (considering both power generation and low-temperature solar thermal), with a 36% increase compared to 2008.

Photovoltaic installations (grid-tied) grew by 38 percent. Solar water heating grew by 10 percent annual over 2008. Concentrating solar power sector had three new plants come online in 2009. Cumulative CSP capacity in the U.S. reached 432 megawatts with a development pipeline totaling more than 10,000 megawatts.

Regarding power generation, 481 new MW came into operation both from photovoltaic and solar thermal energy. The total installed capacity in this country has thus grown to 2,108 MW. The latter is already sufficient to meet the electricity needs of 350,000 US homes, but the growth expected in 2010 will be still stronger.

According to the SEIA, the unit of measurement will have to change this year, from megawatts (MW = thousand kW) to gigawatts (GW = thousands of MW). Indeed, as much as 6,470 MW of photovoltaic power and 10,583 MW of solar thermal are in the pipeline, a significant portion of which will be installed in the coming months.

A great amount of last year’s new capacity (469 MW) was generated from photovoltaic technology, over 91% of which was grid-connected. Only 3 solar thermal plants were built for a total of 12 MW, although this technology is expected to supply the greatest amount of power in 2010.

Finally, in 2009 this industry created 10,000 new jobs, for a total of about 46,000 people employed, which are expected to become 60,000 in late 2010.

The U.S. wind power industry is expanding as established industry leaders maintain their top position and manufacturing continues to grow albeit at a slower rate than in 2008, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

The U.S. wind energy industry installed over 10,000 MW of new wind power generating capacity in 2009, the largest year in U.S. history, and enough to power the equivalent of 2.4 million homes.

GE Energy remained #1 in U.S. wind turbines sales; NextEra Energy Resources continued to lead in wind farm ownership; and Xcel Energy continued to lead utilities in wind power usage.

Approximately 85,000 people are employed in the wind farm and hold jobs in areas as varied as wind turbine manufacturing, construction and installation of wind turbines, wind turbine operations and maintenance, legal and marketing services, transportation and logistical services, and more.