U.S. photovoltaic (PV) installations in 2011 will rise 166 percent to a total of 2.4 gigawatts (GW), with California leading the country in the amount of power derived from renewable solar energy, according to a new IHS iSuppli Photovoltaic Market Tracker report.

The number of U.S. PV installations this year is projected to climb to approximately 49,000, up from 39,000 in 2010. Of the 2.4 GW in solar power expected to be installed this year, ground installations will contribute approximately 1.4 GW; commercial installations, 710 megawatts (MW); and residential installations, 270 MW.

Among states, California will lead by a wide margin in solar power, accounting for 967 MW. Surprisingly, New Jersey is expected to be second with 263 MW, followed by Arizona with 243 MW, New Mexico with 139 MW and Nevada with 118 MW. The remaining top 10, in descending order, are Pennsylvania, Florida, New York, North Carolina and Colorado.

With large projects coming, Nevada will enter the top 10 for the first time this year, moving into the top five. Meanwhile, New Jersey, though in second place, may encounter a slowdown because of waning political support and state budget problems.

“Thanks to the implementation of many utility-scale projects this year, the U.S. growth rate in 2011 will be more than double the 80 percent expansion level of 2010, when photovoltaic installations amounted to just slightly over 900 MW,” said Mike Sheppard, analyst for photovoltaics at IHS. “Next year, new solar installations will reach an estimated 3.1 GW, on the way to some 5.5 GW by 2015. And while a downturn next year is forecast for Europe, growth will be good stateside because of healthy support from the U.S. Department of Energy in the form of loan guarantees to help stimulate the market and help secure a lower cost of capital for large projects.”

In terms of renewable energy overall, many states are indicating significant growth potential through 2020, in line with the entire country’s renewable portfolio standard regulations requiring the increased production of energy from renewable sources.

Michigan, Kansas and Washington all have established targets to derive 10 to 20 percent of their total power needs from PV or renewable sources by 2015 to 2020. New Mexico is further along this path, with large projects that will help the state reach its 10 percent target by 2020.

Growth in renewable energy will be fastest over the next four years in New York, where the five-year compound annual growth rate ending in 2015 is expected to be at 29 percent. Colorado, however, has the largest potential for expansion; while the state in 2010 derived 5 percent of its power from renewable power, that rate is set to grow to 27 percent by 2020. There are also more states within the country that have renewable-energy targets extending all the way to 2030, indicating it will be some time before the market peaks.