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Solar market set to soar globally throughout 2016

Reduced costs of photovoltaics and growth in attendance at EES and Intersolar conferences globally are just some of the factors indicative of a continual rise in solar energy generation.

Around US $329 billion was invested in renewable energies last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This represents a considerable increase of 4% from the previous year, and even stands 3% higher than the previous record achieved in 2011. 

Intersolar and ees exhibitions from around the world are enjoying positive growth figures, with an increase in exhibitors set to attend. ees Europe in particular is scoring highly among exhibitors. After increasing fivefold in 2015, the exhibition space is expanding by a further 40% in size this year. The US and Brazilian markets are also each expected to grow by 50%, suggesting a growth in solar energy generation in these markets. 

Record investments in solar energy and storage solutions 

Despite falling oil and gas prices, 2015 was a record year for renewable energy, with China, Africa, the USA, Latin America and India in particular driving forward the global energy transition. A photovoltaics boom is forecast for the USA in particular. Market research company GTM Research predicts that the market will increase by 119% this year compared with 2015. This would make the United States the second largest photovoltaics market in the world, after China. 

According to GTM Research, around 16 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaics output is set to be installed in 2016, adding to the 7.3 GW installed in 2015. China recorded 15 GW growth in 2015, setting a new record level. Other important markets are establishing themselves, too – India with its ambitious expansion plans in particular, according to Intersolar. According to a report presented recently by the Mercom Capital Group, an additional 4 GW of photovoltaics output is expected to be installed in India in 2016. The country plans to add 100 GW by 2022. 

The Latin American solar market is also developing. GTM Research predicts that photovoltaic installations in the region will double in 2016 to reach 2.6 GW. The region’s flourishing markets are considered to be Chile, Honduras, Mexico and Brazil. Last but not least, the energy storage market is also on a very positive growth course. The USA is viewed as the frontrunner, having achieved growth of 243% in 2015, says GTM Research.

Emerging countries turn to renewable energy

This development is being fuelled in particular by further reductions in the costs of photovoltaics, which are due to solar power becoming increasingly competitive. What’s more, decades of research and a focus on technological developments and innovations have allowed many manufacturers to significantly improve the efficiency of their products. The resulting dynamism can be felt above all in a number of emerging and developing countries, where the focus has now turned to wind and solar power – the obvious choice considering that generating it is often considerably cheaper than purchasing electricity from the grid. Furthermore, renewable energy systems are quick to install, and decentralized at that, allowing them to be positioned exactly where the electricity demand is. In the long term, solar and wind power offer a greater degree of independence from future developments in fossil fuel prices.

While China, Japan and the USA dominated the photovoltaics markets in 2015, Europe was also able to reach an important expansion milestone. Total photovoltaics output in the region reached the 100 GW mark in 2015, according to industry association SolarPower Europe. Last year also marked the first time the European photovoltaics market had grown in three years. SolarPower Europe predicts a comeback for photovoltaics in Europe and expects the market to stabilize at a slightly increased level in 2016. The solar association also believes that new installations could – realistically speaking – boast outputs far greater than 10 GW in the coming years. At a global level, total photovoltaics installations have surpassed the 300 GW mark.

Battery storage systems as catalysts for a new photovoltaics boom

Battery storage systems, which are essential to containing solar energy, is also on the rise. In 2015, the USA was the leading market, with a total of 221 megawatts of energy storage systems installed last year. This is greater than the output installed in 2013 and 2014 combined according to GTM Research in its recent report US Energy Storage Monitor 2015 Year in Review. The US storage market grew by 243% compared with 2014. A similar situation can be seen in Europe. Germany, for example, extended its renewable energy storage program at the beginning of March. The German Solar Association (BSW-Solar) is therefore predicting a further strong increase in demand. The reason for this, according to Intersolar, is that cost reductions have made domestic storage systems attractive options for many home owners. According to BSW-Solar, 35,000 solar storage systems have already been installed in Germany alone – a trend that is on the up. Ultimately, the global prospects for Intersolar and ees are good, say the companies, indicating a positive outlook for the future of the solar industry.

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Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity