Solar

PV installation surprises in 2011, predictions for 2012

If IMS Research’s calculations are correct, global solar PV capacity installations exceeded “an almost unthinkable” 26GW in 2011 — with a massive 10GW of solar PV capacity in 4Q11 alone, more than all of the entire installed capacity in 2009. And the analyst firm is raising its projections for 2012 global PV installations to 26GW-28GW.

January 17, 2012 – If IMS Research’s calculations are correct, global solar PV capacity installations exceeded “an almost unthinkable” 26GW in 2011 — with a massive 10GW of solar PV capacity in 4Q11 alone, more than all of the entire installed capacity in 2009. And the analyst firm is raising its projections for 2012 global PV installations to 26GW-28GW.

What drove 2011 installs higher? Credit Germany, whose (preliminary) 7.5GW exceeded everyone’s top-end expectations. Italy, UK, and China also came in “slightly” higher than thought. The UK took some by surprise, with what IMS says was around 800MW installed for 2011, more than triple some expectations. In general, too, a big factor was the mild weather in Europe — “perhaps we will need to start forecasting the weather as well as the decision-making of politicians,” quips Ash Sharma, IMS’s senior research director.

Module and inverter suppliers actually “didn’t see the year-end rally coming,” Sharma says; they’d already anticipatorily beefed up their channel inventory heading into 4Q11, and since “most of the action was happening further down the supply chain” they saw little if any increase in their orders.

Sharma also acknowledges the PV industry’s schizophrenia in how it tallies final capacity figures, with so many different metrics to hash out (e.g. installations, registrations, connections, shipments, etc.), not to mention “confusing and contradictory” reporting from some of the larger markets. (Italy’s GSE still shows both 2.3GW and 5.8GW for their 2010 installs; Sharma says it was more like 4.4GW.)

For 2012 Sharma projects a “probably” flat year with 26GW of new solar PV installations, but with potential for both upside (to 29GW) and downside. It largely depends on how the governments in Germany and Italy, the planet’s two top end markets in 2011. (7.5GW in Germany, 3GW in December alone!). They have to deal with what was far more PV capacity than they had budgeted for, and as a result both China’s government and suppliers will respond.