Output from Residential Solar Doubled in 2009

Homes generated twice as much power from rooftop solar panels last year than in 2008, says a new report by the solar power industry.

These photovoltaic (PV) systems were buoyed by expanded federal tax credits and falling PV prices, causing them to produce 156 megawatts of electricity in 2009, up from 78 megawatts a year earlier, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

“Despite the Great Recession of 2009, the U.S. solar industry had a winning year and posted strong growth numbers,” Rhone Resch, the group’s president and CEO, said in the announcement. “We expect 2010 to be a breakout year for the U.S. solar industry.”

Last year, the U.S. government lifted its $2,000 tax credit cap on residential solar panels (also on windmills and geothermal heat pumps), allowing homeowners to deduct 30% of their total costs. Also, the report says, the price of PV modules has fallen more than 40% from mid-2008.

Still, solar energy continues to provide only a tiny amount of U.S. electricity — less than 1% of the total.

The report cites tremendous variation within the industry, resulting in slower overall growth. Because the large commercial market lagged, total growth in capacity for photovoltaic panels increased 38% last year, down from 84% in 2008.

Worldwide last year, it says, the United States ranked fourth in solar-electric installations after Germany, Italy and Japan.

Among U.S. states, California has the most solar-electric installations, followed by New Jersey, Florida, Arizona and Colorado.

Source: USA Today