Solar industry reports record growth in 2012

The U.S. solar industry had record growth in 2012, according to a report released Thursday.

Solar installations grew 76 percent during the year, as 16 million solar panels were installed.

And while California led the nation in the number of megawatts installed, with 1,033, Texas made the top 10.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, noted that the first oil well in the United States was drilled 153 years ago. But solar now is in its heyday, he said.

“I’m happy to report we’re finally tapping into our strongest domestic energy source,” Resch said during a Google Hangout organized to report the results of the study by GTM Research.

Module costs have dropped 60 percent over the past two years, “a pace that is hard to explain,” said Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy, a solar company in Northern California.

Overall, the U.S. installed 3,313 megawatts of solar photovoltaics in 2012, bringing the total to 7,221 megawatts of photovoltaics available. Along with 546 megawatts of concentrating solar power, that is enough to power 1.2 million homes, Resch said.

States adding at least 60 megawatts of solar power were spread across the country. Texas ranked No. 9, with 64 megawatts added.

Resch said supportive government policies have helped spur the growth and called for longer-term policies that will provide certainty to the industry.

“You need the same certainty that has been provided to the oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear industries,” he said.

See what the experts had to say about the report results in this Google Hangout recorded Thursday morning: