The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) and Greentech Media have published their final market report of 2010 on the U.S. Solar industry. Here are the highlights about the 2010 solar thermal market:
The good news: The U.S. saw close to 30,000 solar pool heating systems installed and 35,500 solar water heating systems were installed.
The okay news: The entire solar thermal industry grew, but not by much. In the end, the 2010 saw a modest 5% growth of installations compared to 2009. Solar pool heating had much better numbers, growing 13% over 2009.
Nevertheless, the report attributes the weak growth of solar hot water in 2010 to several factors: First, the sluggish economy isn’t helping solar hot water or pool heating. Second, the price for gas, solar hot water’s main carbon fuel competitor, has also been fairly low in 2010.
After hitting a peak of over $20/thousand cubic feet (Mcf), residential retail natural gas prices have hovered between $10-$15/thousand cubic feet (Mcf) in the past year. The bottom line is that the return on investment on small residential systems is going to be slower with gas prices so low. However, it should be noted that gas is a commodity, and prices could rise unexpectedly for any number of reasons, making residential more attractive.
In addition, higher volume commercial systems have very attractive incentives right now, especially in California and New York.
SEIA’s report expects the domestic solar water heating market to continue to grow in 2011, but the actual growth rate will be tied to gas and heating oil prices, and they even suggest that if gas prices remain relatively low or go lower, there may be no growth at all, especially for the residential sector. The trend in solar thermal PPA’s (power purchase agreements) may also help to grow the commercial side, and eventually grow the residential market too.
Similarly, the report says that solar pool heating has been hit by the economy and especially the housing bust. As the economy and housing markets recover, especially in solar leading states like California, Florida and Arizona, the report expects the solar pool heating market also to recover.
The top ten states for solar water heating in 2010 were, in order: California, Hawaii, Florida, Arizona, Puerto Rico, Massachusetts, Colorado, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and New York.
The top ten states for solar pool heating installations in 2010 were, in order: Florida, California, Arizona, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and Nevada.
The full executive summary of the solar report–which covers solar PV, solar CSP, and solar thermal–is available to be downloaded free here. Enjoy.
In the mean time, let’s keep working towards terrific solar thermal numbers for 2011! As always, let Free Hot Water know if we can help.