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Spotlight: U.S. solar installation to reach new high in 2015

WASHINGTON, Sept. 9  — The U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) installation is expected to reach a new high in 2015 pushed by government policies and increasing domestic demand.

The United States installed 1.393 GW solar PV in the second quarter, making the total operational capacity over 20 GW, enough to power 4.6 million homes, said the report issued by Greentech Media Research and the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Associations (SEIA) on Wednesday.

This is the seventh consecutive quarter in which the United States added more than 1 GW of PV installations and the whole year PV installation is expected to reach 7.7 GW, up 24 percent over 2014, said the report.

The primary contributor for PV installation growth is utility companies, which account for 52.5 percent of total solar PV that came on-line in the second quarter, driven by the federal and local governments’ policies.

“The demand for solar energy is now higher than ever and this report spells out how crucial it is for America to maintain smart, effective, forward-looking public policies, like the Investment Tax Credit, beyond 2016,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president in a statement.

The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is regarded as major engine for the development of solar industry. It is a tax incentive policy provided by the federal government which allows companies that invested in the solar sector to enjoy 30 percent federal tax credit till Dec. 31, 2016.

In addition, the ITC state incentive policies have also played a very important role in supporting the growth of solar energy.

“While states have great clean energy policies, all kinds of investors follow,” Melanie Hart, director for China policy at Center for American Progress, said at a recent energy event held by the Wilson center, a think-tank based in Washington D.C.

The report showed that 21 states have added more than 100 MW of solar PV in the second quarter. Households in 10 states install more than 10 MW each during the period, while in the same quarter of 2013, only four states installed that much residential solar.

Following the utility, households have become the second largest drive for solar growth since the third quarter last year as the cost of solar fell sharply in recent five years and Americans improved their views about renewable energy.

The residential solar market continued its fast growing trend and reached 473 megawatts (MW) in the second quarter, increasing 70 percent compared with the same period last year, said the report.

In the first quarter of this year, the residential market experienced a 76-percent increase. The SEIA expected residential market to see the most rapid growth in 2015 compared with other solar market segments.

The U.S. government has also noticed the strength of households in pushing forward the renewable energy development. Some specific financial measures were published at the end of August to reduce the burden of households to use renewable energy.

“We are seeing the beginning of this transformation. We really feel this is a major opportunity to expand this dramatically and to contribute to the clean energy,” said Ernest Moniz, U.S. secretary of energy, as the U.S. government published new measures last month.

According to the new policies, the Department of Energy (DOE) is making up to 1 billion U.S. dollars in loan guarantee to support renewable energy projects that suit the need of households.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is making plans to unlock residential Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing for single-family housing, which will allow the homeowners to pay the cost of installation of renewable energy facilities overtime through property taxes.

The HUD and the DOE are also preparing a new program to increase homeowners’ borrowing power to help them adopt renewable energy.

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