If you feel like you’ve been seeing more shiny solar panels popping up on roofs lately, you’re not wrong. Photovoltaic installations in the US totaled 742 megawatts in the second quarter of the year, making it the second-best quarter for solar on record, according to a report from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Utilities were a particularly active player in the field, accounting for 477 megawatts. Many states demand that electric companies get an increasing percentage of their energy from renewable sources, which encourages that kind of investment.

SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch said the cost of solar installations is falling, making it easier for all types of customers to get into the market. US average system prices have fallen 10 percent over the last quarter alone, the report said.

On the residential side, much of the growth in installations has come from third-party installations where a homeowner or business essentially rents their roof to an outside company that puts up panels and sells the electricity to the grid. In California, Arizona and Colorado, 70 percent of new residential installations followed that model. According to Shayle Kann of GTM Research, third-party deals have attracted $600 million in new investments in recent months, demonstrating their growing acceptance among project investors.

PV installations have been up and down in recent quarters, jumping from 477 megawatts in the third quarter of 2011 to 791 megawatts in the fourth quarter and then falling to 512 megawatts in the first quarter of this year. Between the industry’s strong showing in the second-quarter and the fact that there are 3,400 megawatts of utility projects under construction, the report predicts that a total of 3,200 megawatts will be installed in 2012. That’s up 71 percent from last year.

Concentrating solar power, an alternative to photovoltaic panels, is also growing, though not as quickly as PV. As of the end of the second quarter, 546 megawatts of concentrating solar capacity were installed in the US.

Featured image credit: Flickr/theregeneration