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Global solar PV module inventories reach 10 GW

Global solar photovoltaic (PV) module inventory levels have reached over 10 GW in the second quarter of 2011, the highest amount recorded to date, according to IMS Research.

By IMS Research, edited by Renewable Energy Focus

The high inventory levels combined with lower incentive levels for solar PV in key European markets, have contributed to rapidly decreasing prices during the quarter.

A sudden slowdown in completed installations due to the halting of the Italian market, as well as a slower than expected start to the year in other key European markets, has led to a sharp increase in stock levels throughout the solar PV supply chain. Inventory levels at manufacturers, distributors, integrators and installers have all climbed during the first half of 2011.

Most of this record inventory has already been shipped by solar PV module manufacturers and is located in distribution and sales channels. IMS Research estimates that almost 8 GW of solar PV modules are currently shipped by suppliers, but yet to be installed and connected to the grid.

“Throughout 2010, when all products were moving quickly through the supply chain, channel inventory typically stood at four to five GW; which is roughly equivalent to one quarter’s production. Generally speaking, a module will take around three months to be shipped, transported and make its way through distribution channels before being installed, so this figure appears reasonable,” says PV Research Analyst, Sam Wilkinson.

“Many in the industry consider today’s inventory level to be shocking. However, it represents an increase of only around three to four GW over ‘normal’ levels.”

As well as the large channel inventory of solar PV modules, supplier inventory has also grown quickly in early 2011; most suppliers are reporting that year-to-date production has far exceeded shipments. The resulting increase in solar PV modules held in stock by suppliers has taken the total solar PV module inventory over the 10 GW mark.

IMS Research predicts that further declines in average PV module prices will lead to a strong recovery in the solar PV market, in particular led by growth in Germany and the USA; high inventory levels will begin to be corrected in Q3’11.

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