While most reporting about solar in the US has been dominated by headlines about Solyndra's bankruptcy, creating the impression of a solar industry in crisis, booming solar installations around the world and in the USA and solar pricing at grid parity in more locations--not Solyndra--is the real and powerful solar story. Here are the key facts.
Depending on which report you choose, the world installed between 26,000 to 27.4 megawatts of new solar in 2011. Either number is a smashing new record that pushed the global annual solar business to $91.6 to $93 billion. See the report at www.solarbuzz.com or the GTM/Clean Edge study at:
During 2011, global solar installations skyrocketed 69% from 15,600 megawatts, with the USA doubling its solar installations and setting an annual record, according to Clean Edge. Interestingly, while installations rose 69%, total industry revenues increased much less--29%--but for a healthy reason.
Sharp declines in the cost and price of solar during 2011 meant that revenues increased much more slowly than installations. Globally solar averaged $3.47 per watt fully installed in 2011, and will be a revolutionary $2.69 in 2012, according to Clean Edge.
With the average global fully installed solar price falling below $3 in 2012, the solar revolution has arrived in 2012. Solar in 2011 was already at grid parity in parts of the world and will achieve that tipping point number in more parts of the world and the USA during 2012 to 2015.
As recently as 2000, the global solar industry was just a $2.5 billion business and its transformation to a $93 billion behemoth and the rise of shale gas in the USA are the two most important energy stories of the start of the 21st century.