A solar sensation in Fort Collins

The Colorado solar industry continues to grow and innovate. In mid-May, Advanced Energy Industries, Inc. in Fort Collins broke the industry record for power inverter efficiency, which determines the amount of energy a solar array converts to usable power. The more efficient the inverter, the more kilowatts of energy produced per array. The bottom line is the more efficient the inverter, the more electricity produced, the faster the return on investment for the project.

AEI’s Solaron® 500 HE PV inverter, targeting the large commercial and utility-scale market, achieved a 98 percent weighted efficiency rating from the California Energy Commission. The California Energy Commission is an agency that reviews, compiles and approves inverters for commercial use. To see its ratings for commercial and utility-scale inverters go here.

The solar industry had a banner year according to the US Solar Market InsightTM: Year in Review 2010 research report, released by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. A few key highlights from the report note just how strong 2010 was for the industry:

Entire solar market:
• The total value of U.S. solar market installations grew 67 percent from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $6.0 billion in 2010.
• Solar electric installations in 2010 totaled 956 megawatts (MW) to reach a cumulative installed capacity of 2.6 gigawatts (GW), enough to power more than half a million households.

Photovoltaics (PV):
• Grid-connected PV installations grew 102 percent in 2010 to reach 878 MW, up from 435 MW in 2009, bringing cumulative installed PV capacity in the U.S. to 2,086 MW.
• Sixteen states installed more than 10 MW of PV in 2010, up from four states in 2007.
• Utility PV installations more than tripled in 2010 to reach 242 MW, up from 70 MW brought online in 2009.
• U.S.-based manufacturing of PV components increased substantially year-over-year for wafers (97 percent growth), cells (81 percent growth), and modules (62 percent growth).

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP):
• The 75-MW Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center was completed in 2010; it is the largest U.S. CSP plant to come online in nearly 20 years.
• Cumulative CSP capacity from all 17 operating plants reached 507 MW in 2010.
• For the first time, the federal government approved permits for seven CSP plants on public land, which add 3,560 MW of new capacity.

Solar Hot Water and Space Heating (SWH) / Solar Pool Heating (SPH):
• 35,464 SWH systems and 29,540 SPH systems were installed in 2010 alone, heating a total of more than 65,000 homes, businesses and pools.
• California maintained its position as the leading installer of SWH systems in 2010 as the overall market grew 5 percent.

The Colorado Legislature recently passed a law to take on rapidly climbing permitting fees. The bipartisan Fair Permit Act closed loopholes and better aligned permit and plan review fees with the actual costs associated with providing the permits.

Colorado plays a leading role in solar technology development and implementation aimed at supporting all segments of the solar marketplace. SEIA ranks Colorado 6th in the nation in terms of solar-based implementations across residential, commercial and utility market segments.

We should expect to see our ranking improve as companies such as Advanced Energy Industries innovate and drive down costs, and industry friendly bipartisan legislation gets signed into law.
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