Study: PV installations will defy “doom and gloom” and grow in 2012

Installations of solar PV will grow by at least 3.5% in 2012, despite many governments slashing financial incentives for the technology, a study has revealed.

According to the report from IMS Research, which tracks installations in more than 60 countries, global installations of PV could increase by as much as 21%.

The company forecasts that despite incentive cuts in most of the world’s largest markets, global installations will grow from 26.9 GW in 2011 to between 27.8 GW and 32.6 GW in 2012, with Europe’s share of installations falling from 69% last year to 50% this year.

Ash Sharma, IMS’s senior research director for photovoltaics said: “Despite many in the industry still expecting further doom and gloom, we in fact see a pick-up in demand driven by falling system prices, a rush to beat incentive cuts, and the growing number of mid-sized emerging PV markets.”

He added: “It is no longer a case of whether the PV market will grow in 2012, the real question now is by how much will it grow. When you only consider a handful of countries like Germany, Italy and France, it is easy be pessimistic about demand; however, when you look further afield and analyse demand from 60 countries, the picture becomes much more positive.”

According to the report, at least 23 counties will install 100 MW or more this year, up from just 17 countries last year. “It is this geographic diversification that will help drive growth in global PV installations this year as the market becomes less dependent on just one or two markets,” said Sharma. “Ultimately it will also lead to stability for the industry in the longer term as the impact of a single country’s policy will weaken.”

Germany, however, is still predicted to remain the largest and most important PV market this year, despite the massive cuts to its feed-in tariff (FiT) policy, which has contributed to three of its solar panel manufacturing companies going out of business in recent months.

New installations in Germany are predicted to reach at least 6 GW this year, and could reach as much as 8.5 GW, the study said. This result, which IMS admitted would have been “unthinkable” a few months ago, is largely down to increased demand ahead of the proposed FiT changes.

Although Germany will remain the largest market, the company predicted that China will become the second largest, followed closely by Italy.

“China remains one of the most unpredictable factors in the global supply and demand balance,” said Sharma. “With European demand faltering, the Chinese government is under increased pressure to accelerate domestic deployment to support its huge manufacturing base. Installations of up to eight GW would be unlikely in China this year, but still a possibility.”

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity