It’s close to the end of the year and while children are waiting to hear the sound of reindeer on rooftops, businesspeople are looking forward to 2014. Among them the solar industry, which is hoping to put the sound of boots on rooftops rather than hooves, and it's anticipating continued growth into the new year as international markets continue to expand.
At least one company, NPD Solarbuzz has taken a bullish approach anticipating that the global level of solar installations could reach 49 gigawatts by the end of 2014. However, other companies like Mercom anticipate that the world will have 43 gigawatts of solar installed by the end of 2014. Either way both companies are showing strong and stable growth for the industry.
Solarbuzz’s more bullish stance sees larger growth. “The solar PV industry has reached a critical tipping point, with end-market demand hitting record levels almost every quarter,” said NPD Solarbuzz Vice President Finlay Colville. “This growth is being driven by leading module suppliers and project developers that returned to profitability during 2013, and which have now established highly-effective global sales and marketing networks,” he added.
Market conditions have stabilized for the solar industry over the past few years, following a period of wild growth, which led first to undersupply then oversupply by photovoltaic manufacturers in particular. "Manufacturing over-capacity and pricing erosion within the PV industry was previously a key factor in limiting annual growth to 10 percent to 20 percent between 2011 and 2013,” Colville said. “With a more stable pricing environment and the prospects of increased end-market globalization, NPD Solarbuzz forecasts a return to annual growth above 30 percent for the PV industry in 2014.”
Mercom largely agreed with Solarbuzz. “Helped by strong demand, the module oversupply situation has improved. Prices are stable, and manufacturers are reporting shipment growth and ramping up capacity,” said CEO Raj Prabhu.
One of the factors that’s likely leading to some of the discrepancy between the two projections is Japan. “At the moment, Japan is a ‘wild card,’” Prabhu said. “Though forecast to be the second largest market in 2014 with 7 gigawatts installed, there are some mixed signals coming out of Japan.”
Apparently there is already a large gap in the country between projects approved under the country’s feed-in tariff and the amount actually installed, according to Mercom. The company said that the country’s government is exploring the issue. Another potential roadblock to higher installations in 2014 is what the Shinzo Abe policy position towards solar and renewables will be.
NPD Solarbuzz anticipated record growth for the last quarter of 2013 and first quarter of 2014. “Q4’13 will be another record quarter for the solar PV industry, exceeding the 12 gigawatt barrier for the first time ever,” the company said. “Furthermore, demand in Q1’14 will also achieve record-breaking status, as the strongest first-quarter ever seen by the PV industry,” it added. It anticipated that during that six-month period 22 gigawatts of solar PV will be installed.
Both companies anticipated a shift in the market from Europe as countries like Germany and Italy no longer dominate new installations. “The record solar PV demand in Q4’13 is heavily weighted towards the three leading countries….Two-thirds of all solar panels installed in Q4 will be located in China, Japan, and the US,” NPD Solarbuzz said.