Report: US solar installations skyrocket

More American homes installed solar panels in the third quarter of this year than ever before, with 52 percent more going on line than in the same period last year, according to a new report.

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The report, from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association, finds that 31,000 American homes installed solar panels in the third quarter.

Overall, the U.S. installed 930 megawatts worth of solar panels, up 35 percent from the same time last year.

The U.S. is expected to install more solar panels than world leader Germany for the first time in 15 years, the report finds.

“Solar is the second-largest source of new electricity capacity in the U.S. this year, trailing only natural gas," said Shayle Kann, vice president of research for GTM Research, one of the authors of the report. "Already the groundwork has been laid for a mainstream solar future."

According to the report, there is now enough solar capacity in the U.S. — 10,250 megawatts — to power 1.7 million average American homes.

The residential sector is still a small proportion of the overall solar market but has the strongest growth. Rapidly falling prices could be a reason for the spread of solar power to homes, as costs fell 9.7 percent from last year.

California continues to have the most installations, benefitting from a 10-year $2.167 billion program of incentives begun by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in 2006.

North Carolina moved into the No. 3 spot, after Arizona. In 2007, North Carolina became the first state in the southeast to adopt a renewable energy standard, requiring utilities to get 12.5 percent of their energy from renewables.