The U.S. Solar PV Market

"The U.S. solar market grew 67 percent to reach $6 billion in 2010 from $3.6 billion in 2009."

In addition, "[t]he cumulative PV installations in the country reached 2.1 gigawatts in 2010."

“The U.S. market has the potential to double again in 2011 whereas the global market isn’t likely to do the same,” and “[i]n the next two years, we’ll see the U.S. market increasing its share in the global market.”

"The United States could become the largest solar market by 2015."

More background, plus the source of those quotes, here.

Note, however, that the same source shows this "solar economy" to be populated by corporate welfare queens: "The growth has largely come from state policies that mandate renewable energy consumption and federal policies that provide grants, loan guarantees and tax credits to solar project developers and equipment manufacturers."

And the market is going to the big players like "First Solar, Brightsource Energy and Abengoa Solar," who benefit from government mandates: "Utility-scale projects are expected to drive a bulk of the growth in the next five years because many utilities are signing power purchase agreements or developing their own projects in order to meet their state mandates to increase the amount of renewable electricity they buy and sell. In 2010, developers planted 242 megawatts of utility-scale power plants, compared with 70 megawatts in 2009."

How predictable.  Big fatcats can make campaign contributions to legislators who can then direct utilities to garner a minimum percentage of their power from "renewables," thus necessitating big purchase agreements from the big fat cats, who pocket those big bucks (the utilities pay whatever price they command because the utilities have no choice but to buy from them).  Those big bucks come from the utilities' ratepayers, of course (utilities are monopolies, so they don't care, they just pass the cost on to their captive customers -- the ratepayers).  With guaranteed income streams, there is no incentive to shave costs and compete on the free market at the level that Apple and Amazon, for example, must compete to produce i-Phones, i-Pads and Kindle-type readers that the masses consume whilst bless with the choice of competing knock-off products.

Every state mandate (Feed-In-Tariff, Renewable Portfolio Standard), then, is a de facto tax increase, hidden within downwind rate increases, with enforced profits streaming from rate-payer pockets to the solar fat cats.  Those fat cats then blow big wads on greenwashing ads touting how wonderful Solar PV is for the environment and hey, just shut up and pay the inflated prices that inevitably arise from government-fiat based markets.

Insidious, no?

Worse, a lot of Solar Corporate Welfare Queens want massive subsidies for massive, utility-scale solar farms.  But when variable power is super-concentrated, it creates big bursts of energy and thus necessitates costly grid-reworkings.  Consider this passage from a "Community Wind" project article:

One of the major cost advantages a small wind farm has over larger wind farms occurs when it’s time to connect to the grid.  Frequently, mega-farms will require substantial upgrades to the transmission system in order to ensure reliability.  Smaller wind farms are able to use lower voltage lines, avoiding the problems of system overloads and costly upgrades to the system caused by the large wind farms.  A series of wind farms that can use 69 kV lines are easier and cheaper to hook up than a project that needs to connect to the grid at higher transmission voltages such as 230 kV or 345 kV.

That does not happen when "Joe Six Pack" (the average American consumer, on the 100-million unit level), erects a 10KW system here and there, incrementally, and for the express purpose of providing and consuming his own power, thus reducing end-point consumption rather than "roman-candle-burst" feed the grid with inherently variable, "spiking" power (the solar farms).