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PV facing a shakeout?

Over the last six months, the photovoltaic (PV) market has witnessed a perfect storm emerge, with a looming global recession and severe tightening of credit markets, according to a recent report from the Prometheus Institute and Greentech Media.

Fuelled by aggressive policies and generous subsidies in key markets, global PV demand has grown from a mere 125 MW in 1999 to 4.5 GW in 2008. But amid news of slowing demand, idling lines and cancellations of capacity additions, concerns over modest oversupply have escalated into fears of a full-blown shakeout and a dramatic decline in market size, according to PV Technology, Production and Cost, 2009 Forecast: The Anatomy of a Shakeout.

The report looks at production and capacity forecasts, quantitative analysis of manufacturing cost structures, global PV module supply curves and profiles for 118 crystalline silicon and thin-film companies.

The report concludes that:

  • Global module capacity will grow to 27.5 GW by 2012 from 5.7 GW in 2007, sufficient to produce 23 GW of PV modules. Thin-film modules will have a market share of 34% in 2012 from 13% in 2007, and rapid uptake of thin-film will create new market leaders;
  • Module costs for crystalline silicon will halve by 2015 to US$1.40/W; costs for copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) thin-films will be down to 75 cents/W. Falling costs are quickly setting the stage for ‘grid parity’ in major markets, which will fuel demand for long-term growth;
  • Dramatically falling prices in 2009 will impact major players; high-efficiency monocrystalline and low-cost thin-film technologies will have a 30% efficiency-adjusted cost advantage over traditional multicrystalline producers, leaving them well-positioned to survive the impending shakeout;
  • Asia will constitute 82% of global crystalline silicon cells by 2012. The dramatic ramp in production will drive costs down for Asian producers, giving them a significant edge over established European players who will lag behind in expanding manufacturing capacity.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Solar electricity