In first quarter, solar panel installations at U.S. businesses soared  As U.S. businesses are pressed by investors to achieve business cost reductions and improve their spend management practices, they are increasingly turning toward procurement consultants and other experts who can help them to increase profit margins. Many U.S. businesses have installed solar panel systems in an attempt to cut costs, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a new study released by Boston, Massachusetts-based GTM Research stated that the U.S. installed 252 megawatts of solar panel modules during the first three months of this year. That figure is up precipitously from the same period in 2010, and illustrates how electricity sourcing is saving companies money.

According to the report, solar panel installations during the first quarter increased by more than 60 percent from 2010. Furthermore, U.S. factories boosted their manufacturing capacity to help satiate burgeoning demand. During the first quarter of this year, U.S. manufacturing facilities produced 348 megawatts of solar panels, which was up more than 30 percent from 2010.

While residential photovoltaic system installations increased during the first quarter, the overall upward shift was influenced by non-residential construction, GTM concluded. Solar panel system installations for companies, government organizations and other non-residential projects jumped more than 100 percent from 2010 levels.

Increasingly, companies are recognizing the long-term cost savings that can be achieved through such systems and are taking advantage of government incentives that are set to expire at the end of this year to finance the installations, industry experts affirmed.

The solar boom is benefiting factories and the economy in the Midwest, the report found. Production facilities in the Midwest ratcheted up manufacturing to meet the soaring demand, with those serving the domestic market reporting an uptick in activity.

GTM forecasts that solar panel installations will likely double from 2010 to 1,800 megawatts through the end of this year. Still, that figure does not include the more than 60 megawatts of solar thermal power currently in development.

The domestic solar power industry has continued to see strong growth even during the financial crisis. In 2010, for example, solar power installations reached $6 billion, which was up more than 65 percent from 2009. With growth this year expected to reach even higher levels, many experts contend that solar power could become one of the top energy sources for the U.S. in the coming decades as the technology improves and costs come down. 
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