This past week, 2009 statistics for new wind and solar installations were released. In spite of the economic slowdown, both industries grew at impressive clips. This was due in large part to the stimulus from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
New wind capacity additions in the United States grew almost 20% from 8,366 MW in 2008 to 10,010 MW in 2009. These 10 gigawatts of wind raised the US cumulative wind capacity 40% to over 35 gigawatts. This also amounted to 39% of all new nameplate generating capacity installed in the country.
Texas remained the leading state in the country with almost 2,300 MW of new wind capacity which was more than 2.5X the amount of the next state. That next state was a surprise, though, as Indiana burst onto the scene with over 905 MW of new installations representing a 700% increase of its 2008 total.
Not to be outdone, solar also shined in 2009. Solar capacity additions grew 37% from 351 MW in 2008 to 481 MW in 2009. This grew total US cumulative solar electricity capacity almost 30% to 2,108 MW. Those numbers include both solar photovoltaic and concentrated solar power. The most striking growth came in the residential solar market, where the removal of the $2,000 cap on the Investment Tax Credit resulted in a 100% increase of residential PV installations, for a total of 156 MW. The other major factor in the growth of solar PV installations was the continued fall in the price of solar modules which ended the year down 40% from mid-2008 at $1.85-$2.25 per module.
California continued to lead the nation in capacity additions with 220 MW representing 45% of total US installations. This was mostly due to California’s high electricity prices, generous solar incentives, and robust renewable portfolio standard. A distant second was New Jersey with 57 MW, which showed that you don’t need to be a sunny state to install a lot of solar. You just need an aggressive solar incentive structure, like New Jersey’s aggressive solar carve-out in its renewable portfolio standard.
A scary looking renewable investment climate, in early 2009, was saved mostly due to aggressive government intervention in both the solar and wind space. The result was another banner year for both industries and predictions of strong future growth.