Continuing its explosive growth, the U.S. solar industry had a record-shattering year in 2013. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Solar Market Insight Year in Review 2013, photovoltaic (PV) installations continued to proliferate, increasing 41% over 2012 to reach 4,751MW. In addition, 410MW of concentrating solar power (CSP) came online. Solar was the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the U.S., exceeded only by natural gas. Additionally, the cost to install solar fell throughout the year, ending the year 15% below the mark set at the end of 2012.

At the end of 2013 there were more than 440,000 operating solar electric systems in the U.S. totaling over 12,000MW of PV and 918MW of CSP.

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The U.S. installed 2,106MW in the fourth quarter alone, 44% of the annual total. This makes Q4 2013 by far the largest quarter in the history of the U.S. market, exceeding the next largest quarter by 60%.

“Perhaps more important than the numbers,” writes Shayle Kann, Senior Vice President at GTM Research, “2013 offered the U.S. solar market the first real glimpse of its path toward mainstream status. The combination of rapid customer adoption, grassroots support for solar, improved financing terms, and public market successes displayed clear gains for solar in the eyes of both the general population and the investment community.”

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“Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America, generating enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to power more than 2.2 million homes – and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of our industry’s enormous potential,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “In fact, more solar has been installed in the U.S. in the last 18 months than in the 30 years prior.”

California continues to lead the U.S. market and installed more than half of all U.S. solar in 2013. In fact, the state installed more solar last year than the entire United States did in 2011. Despite installing the second-most PV in 2013 with 421MW, Arizona didn’t live up to its 2012 total of 710MW. On the other side of the spectrum, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Georgia had major growth years, installing a combined 663MW, more than doubling their combined total from the year before. On the whole, the top five states (California, Arizona, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Jersey) accounted for 81% of all U.S. PV installations in 2013.

GTM Research and SEIA forecast another strong year in 2014 with 26% growth in the U.S. solar market. This will bring annual installations up to nearly 6GW and the cumulative total will be just shy of the 20GW milestone.