Solar Market in 2011: Still Hot, But Not Growing So Fast


Updated: How big will the solar market be next year? Big, but not growing as fast as the previous year, according to iSuppli.

The research firm expects to see 20.2 gigawatts of solar pane-based systems installed in 2011, up about 42 percent from the anticipated 14.2 gigawatts in 2010. The growth would be small compared with the 97 percent hike from 7.2 gigawatts 2009 to 2010 because of cuts in government subsidies in key markets such as Germany and Italy and financial turmoil in countries such as Greece and Spain, said iSuppli senior analyst Stefan de Haan.

Germany has been the savior for solar energy equipment makers and project developers during 2009, when recession choked off project financing, spurred contract re-negotiations and prompted furloughs and layoffs during the first half of the year. But solar project construction picked up later last year as developers rushed to complete projects ahead of an anticipated cutback in the country’s feed-in tariff. The country passed a new set of feed-in tariffs that took effect last month.

Despite the cuts, Germany should continue to reign and will likely install 9.5 gigawatts in 2011, a 43.9 percent boost from 2010, iSuppli said. Italy should grab the No. 2 spot in 2011 with 2 gigawatts of new solar installations in 2011, up 53.6 percent from 2010. Meanwhile, the U.S. could see 1.9 gigawatts in 2011, up 79.3 percent from the previous year. France and Japan will fill the No. 4 and No. 5 spot and add at least 1 gigawatt each.

The fact that the solar market still relies heavily on government subsidies has created a rough-and-tumble atmosphere that seems to make market predictions a whole lot tougher. Many market research firms had to revise their forecasts for 2009 because Germany was unexpectedly popular.

So here is a comparison for the global installation forecast for 2010: iSuppli is predicting 14.2 gigawatts. GTM Research is expecting 12.6 gigawatts.  SolarBuzz has pegged it at 15.2 gigawatts. Back in spring this year, Photon Consulting said 24.4 18.8 gigawatts. IMS Research stands by 14.6 gigawatts.

And while iSuppli believes 2011 will see 20.2 gigawatts installed, GTM Research, for example, is looking at 13.4 gigawatts. The German market will “peak in 2010 and decline thereafter,” said Shayle Kann, managing director of solar research at GTM. Other markets will need to grow faster to compensate for the decline before the global market sees a big boost again, he said.

With the falling government subsidies, some analysts expect to see a price decline for solar energy equipment and installations. Crystalline silicon solar cell pricing, for example, is likely to fall 5 percent from 2010 to 2011, assuming the exchange rate stays above 1 euro for $1.20, iSuppli said. The price for installing a power project in Europe could fall 10 percent on average in 2011.

For 2012, worldwide installations could grow even slower, at 2.8 percent, and add 20.8 gigawatts, because Germany will continue to cut its subsidies, iSuppli said.

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Solar Panel Rebate

Once this technology becomes mainstream it will naturally become more affordable, this is where Governments have to stick it out with incentives and rebates instead of falling short!

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