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19 April 2010

Sun shines on US renewable energy industry

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Report shows US solar industry defied downturn last year to deliver a 37 per cent increase in installed capacity

The US solar energy industry has become the latest renewable energy sector to report impressive growth figures for 2009, further underlining the extent to which clean tech industries have defied the economic downturn.

According to new figures from the Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA) released yesterday as part of the trade association's annual report, the amount of installed solar capacity in the US grew 37 per cent last year to 2,108MW.

Solar industry revenue similarly grew 36 per cent over 2008 to $4bn (£2.6bn), driven by strong demand in the utility-scale and residential sectors, state and federal policies incentives and declining solar panel prices.

The report also said that the sector had enjoyed a strong start to 2010 with more than 46MW of solar capacity having come online by early February as a result of new grants released as part of the US stimulus package.

Industry analysts expect further growth across the photovoltaic industry this year as developers rush to begin construction work on projects before the Treasury Grant Program expires at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, thousands of jobs are expected to be created after more than $600m in manufacturing tax credits were awarded to solar equipment producers, allowing more than $2bn of investment in new and upgraded factories, according to the report.

"When the president looks back at how stimulus dollars were invested, he's going to see that solar was one of the best returns on investments in 2009 for the American taxpayers," said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and chief executive.

In addition to government spending, the industry was also bolstered by rising levels of private investment, including a total $1.4bn of venture capital backing during 2009.


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