buIn case you haven’t noticed, solar is popping up everywhere in the U.S. these days, from professional sports stadiums to the parking lots of large corporations. And there’s more to come.

According to a new report by IDC Energy Insights, the rate of North American solar PV installations will double in 2011. Following a strong 2010 that will see around one gigawatt of installations in North America, 2011 should bring more than two gigawatts of new installations as well as a host of new options for developers and project owners looking to reduce the levelized cost of solar energy.

“While subsidies undeniably underpin much of this growth, the young solar PV industry has been rapidly innovating in ways that make solar PV systems more cost effective, easier to install, and easier to maintain,” said Jay Holman, lead analyst for IDC Energy Insights’ Renewable Energy Strategies program. “While North American installations trail those in Europe, current momentum represents very strong growth for the region.”

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According to IDC Energy Insights, uncertainty about the future levels of subsidies – both in the United States and in Europe – are driving industry volatility and uncertainty when it comes to long-range planning. According to Holman, key factors industry suppliers and utilities must watch for include:

  • Further cost reductions for solar PV modules, inverters, and other balance of system (BOS) components, and installation labor, will be driven by increasing volumes and continuing innovation.
  • Attractive feed-in tariffs in Ontario and solar carve-outs in state-level renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in the United States will drive new installations, but uncertainty over the future of U.S. federal-level incentives will remain.
  • Companies that provide solar leasing and power purchase agreements (PPAs) to residential and commercial property owners are expected to continue to thrive as they increase participation in the solar PV market.
  • The movement of intelligence from central inverters to PV modules will accelerate, even as central inverters add functionality to enable high penetration of distributed PV systems on the grid.

“Solar’s strengths warrant the subsidies it has received, and the subsidies have helped the industry achieve lower costs through increased economies of scale, improved reliability, and improved performance through technological innovation,” continued Holman. “The industry is still young enough that these innovations are continuing at a rapid pace, and these factors, combined with apparent commitment to solar subsidies from governments around the world, suggest a strong solar industry for the foreseeable future.”

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