Washington, 24 October (Argus) — The increasing amount of customer-sited solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity has contributed to the rapid growth of US solar PV capacity, according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.
EIA estimated that at the end of 2011 US solar PV capacity was about 3,500MW. About 71pc of that total was generated at customer sites with 1,000MW installed on residential structures and 1,500MW at commercial and industrial buildings.
From 2003-10, the average annual growth in customer participation increased to 56pc, with a 61pc increase from 2009-2010, EIA data show. Still, electric customers using net metering services represented only 0.1pc of all customers in 2010. Net metering programs allow households or businesses with small, on-site solar arrays to sell excess electricity to the grid when generation is greater than their personal needs.
In 2010, every state except Tennessee reported data for net metered customers for a national total of 156,000 customers. California had 86,500 participating customers to account for 56pc of the national total, followed by Colorado with 9,800 customers, Arizona with 8,600, and New Jersey at 7,500 customers.
In some states, such as New Jersey and Massachusetts, utilities can use solar generation on customers' property to meet solar carve-out requirements under those states' renewable portfolio standard programs. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have created solar carve-outs under their portfolio standards to give incentives to the installation of solar technology, which carries higher costs than other forms of renewable resources like biomass and wind.
While EIA maintains an inventory of all solar plants larger than 1MW, neither the government nor industry has adequate census data for the thousands of small rooftop installations at commercial and residential solar PV installations across the US. But, EIA collects data from retail electricity providers serving net metered generators each year, allowing the agency to compile and analyze data for those customers.
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