California seeing substantial solar growth

distributed-solar-panel1The California solar power market is burgeoning in 2010, according to first quarter figures. The state’s market is growing at a rate 190 percent faster than it did during the same time last year.

In the first quarter this year, Californians applied for 252 MW of solar power through the state’s subsidized California Solar Initiative (CSI) program. This is almost as much as the 265 MW in solar applications the state saw in the entire year of 2009, according to research by Mark Bachman, a market analyst for the investment firm Auriga USA.

Applications are the best way to predict volume and variety of solar installations in the future, which is why Bachman looks at this data, according to

Subsidies for solar are declining in California, but this has not hurt the solar market. Bachman credits the huge influx of Asian solar providers into the state recently with the very promising solar increases. These companies, such as SunTech, Sharp, Trina Solar and Yingli Green Energy, provide low-priced solar to counter the relatively higher-priced American companies.

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These companies have brought the market average down significantly and greatly lessened barriers to entry for many California businesses, governments and residents.

The U.S.-based SunPower has been the state’s most dominant solar installer. SunPower is growing in 2010, but is lagging behind overall market growth, according to

Commercial businesses and governments are purchasing the largest amount of solar. Residential solar is growing in 2010, but more modestly than the market as a whole, wrote Bachman.

Calif. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger set the stage for the California Solar Initiative in 2004 with the Million Solar Roofs Program, a goal he set for 2018.

This program included incentives for both new and retrofitted solar applications, required home builders to offer solar panels as an option on all new homes in subdivisions of 25 homes or more and required utilities to pay customers retail prices for energy they put back into the grid.

The California Solar Initiative was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2006. This initiative provides $3.3 billion over ten years to facilitate the goal of one million solar roofs by 2018.

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