Solar photovoltaic market keeps shining in 2011

Despite extreme shifts in pricing, demand and governmental subsidies, the global photovoltaic market in 2011 will experience robust growth, with installations rising by 42.3% for the year, according to the market research firm iSuppli.

iSuppli forecasts that worldwide solar installations will reach 20.2 Gigawatts (GW) next year, up from 14.2 GW at the end of 2010. Germany, the world’s leading Photovoltaic (PV) market, will continue to play a key role and account for half of the total installations, at 9.5GW.

While an impressive growth total for the year, the expansion will be down significantly from the 97.9% increase in 2009.

"The strong results projected for 2011 come despite softening demand anticipated during the first quarter of next year," said Stefan de Haan, senior analyst for photovoltaic materials and systems at iSuppli. "As a result, prices will weaken at the end of the first quarter. However, the feebleness of the pricing will be responsible for demand momentum building up in the second quarter. From then on, a significant demand rally can be expected, leading to a price rebound in the second half."

Speculation is also rife about the possibility of a PV installation cap being imposed in Germany for 2011. However, iSuppli believes that the German government will not dare to cut down PV subsidies, especially in the wake of a recent decision to extend the operation of nuclear power plants. With the nuclear extension passing despite popular opposition, the government is not likely to risk further alienating public opinion by implementing limits on photovoltaic solar energy.

"A severe action such as an installation cap on solar technology conceivably could cause a mutiny among regional German politicians who count PV companies as electoral constituencies, in the process drawing loud protestations from the industry, where precious jobs are at stake," de Haan said. "And unlike in France – where an ad hoc action imposing PV caps succeeded – the solar industry in Germany has real influence on governmental decisions."

In the near term, the nuclear reprieve in Germany will have no effect on the PV markets, even if passage might have sent the wrong signal to PV global markets for the time being, iSuppli maintains. And with German polls suggesting overwhelming support – 80% by one count – among voters in favor of renewable energy generation, the forecasts for a strong German PV market in 2011 continue to hold and remain unchanged.