June 16, 2011 / 4:22 AM / 8 years ago

U.S. solar installations rose 66 percent in Q1

A photovoltaic array at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) National Wind Technology Center (NWTC) generates electricity for the lab on a sunny day near Boulder, Colorado July 21, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. installations of photovoltaic (PV) solar power rose 66 percent in the first quarter, with New Jersey being the fastest-growing market for the emissions-free energy source.

The United States installed 252 megawatts of PV in the first quarter, according to data released on Wednesday by industry trade group the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research.

Lower costs for solar systems are driving the U.S. market, SEIA said. In addition, projects that were started at the end of 2010, before the expected end of a federal solar grant program, boosted installations during the quarter. The government’s cash grant incentive program was ultimately extended until the end of 2011.

The nation’s seven leading solar states gained market share during the quarter, accounting for 88 percent of total installations. They had accounted for 81 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

New Jersey was the fastest-growing market. The state installed 42 MW of solar PV, up 49 percent over the same period in 2010.

U.S. solar panel production was 348 MW, up 17 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010.

Reporting by Nichola Groom

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