Arizona becomes nation’s second largest solar market

solar energy

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced that Arizona ranks 2nd nationally in terms of solar installation, according to the 2012 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). More utility-scale solar technology was installed in Arizona over the last year than in any other state. The annual SEIA report shows a significant increase in photovoltaic (PV) system installations in Arizona, growing from 273 megawatts worth of power installed in 2011 to 710 megawatts in 2012. Arizona now has edged out New Jersey for the number two slot, and trails only California in solar production. The solar industry overall, had one of its best years in 2012 despite the failure of some companies.

Nationally, solar installation grew by 76 percent over the last year. There are now more than 300,000 operational PV systems throughout the country, and the SEIA forecasts continued growth in 2013. Notably, the United States installed 11% of all global solar systems in 2012 – our country’s highest market share in at least 15 years, according to the report.

“We’ve brought more new solar online in 2012 than in the three prior years combined,” SEIA head Rhone Resch said in a statement. “And every one of these panels was bolted down by a member of the U.S. workforce.”

Solar jobs now employ 119,000 people in the United States an increase of 13% over last year, a trend that is expected to continue into 2013. The industry owes this growth to better financing options and greater investment overall into the industry.

Arizona is presently working on three major utility-scale projects. Agua Caliente Solar, near Yuma, is currently generating 250 megawatts. When completed in 2014, it will be the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) project in the world at 290 megawatts. Some states are, however, rolling back their investments in solar. Hawaii Governor Bill Abercrombie has asked for a federal allowance to amend its solar tax credits and offer less incentives for solar in his state as they are causing a drag on the budget.

Suntech Power Holdings Co., a Chinese company, which maintains production facilities in the US, is also cutting back some of its production. It will close its Arizona plant later this year, costing the state 43 jobs. Questions about the company’s overall financial health seemed to have triggered some unusual trading activity on the New York Stock Exchange, prompting an investigation by US financial regulators this week. The company said in a statement today it is unaware of any reason for the abnormalities, as it is currently working to come to a debt restructuring agreement with creditors.