Sunny Outlook

Solar market to grow to 38 GW in 2013

Jürgen Heup, 8 Nov 12
After stagnating for the past two years at 30 gigawatts (GW), global solar power capacity is now poised to grow again, according to Mercom Capital Group. The number of new photovoltaic (PV) installations in 2013 will increase by 23 percent, the equivalent of 38 GW of newly installed solar capacity, said Raj Prabhu, CEO of the US clean-tech and healthcare IT industries consulting firm.

“After years of overcapacity, bankruptcies and record low prices, we are now seeing price stabilisation, higher capacity-utilisation rates and a move towards supplydemand equilibrium,” Prabhu stated. He sees market conditions for solar energy looking much better than they did just three months ago, with the settlement of the China-EU trade dispute also bringing some badly needed certainty to the market. According to Mercom’s forecasts, China is on pace to become the world’s top installer this year with 8.5 GW. Japan is ex pected to follow close behind with 7 GW of new PV installations.

If these projections hold, both countries will exceed their cumulative solar power capacity to date. This year, for the first time, solar energy will also overtake wind power, which is estimated to have a total of 35 GW of new installations during the same time period. The US is projected to take third place in 2013, with 4.5 GW of new solar installations, putting it ahead of Germany, which Mercom sees reaching 4 GW. Other major markets forecasted by Mercom for the present calendar year include the UK at over 1 GW and India at 1 GW, although new Indian PV capacity is barely above last year’s level.

Will German companies be able to benefit from these developments in the solar market? One thing is for sure: Aleo Solar stands to gain nothing more from its US operations. The faltering solar company from Prenzlau in north-eastern Germany announced the closure of its US subsidiary in September. SMA and Solarwatt are also in trouble: both the Kassel-based inverter manufacturer – still the leader in its field – and the Dresden-based panel producer have announced further cuts in jobs. The Baden-Württemberg state government has awarded the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) a EUR 100,000 commission to conduct a study on how Germany can safeguard its PV industry.

According to Hans-Josef Fell, former energy policy spokesperson for the Greens and co-author of Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act, the German solar sector still faces a massive wave of redundancies. He estimates that the number of employees will fall from 110,900 in 2012 to just 60,000 by the end of 2013.

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