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Solar PV market 2014 — 7 predictions

The leading solar photovoltaic (PV) market research firms are predicting a good year in 2014. Below are some of the more specific forecasts for solar PV.

Another year has almost flown by, and solar power continues to grow in leaps and bounds. The global solar market diversified considerably in 2013, with Asia and South America accounting for a much larger portion of deployment than in previous years. Meanwhile, solar technology trade wars have wound down, and growth has remained strong in North America and Europe. The question now is, what does 2014 have up its sleeve? Below are a few predictions from a couple of notable research firms.

7. Latin America to hit 1 gigawatt (GW) annual solar PV milestone. Latin America hasn’t been the fastest to get into the solar PV market, but it has seen strong growth in the past year or so, and that’s expected to pick up even further in 2014. In 2013, Latin America installed about 300 megawatts (MW) of solar PV power capacity, and that’s expected to jump to 1,400 MW (or 1.4 GW) in 2014, according to market research firm IHS. That’s more than a four-fold increase! Aside from bringing more clean electricity to countries in this region, that growth will also bring solar PV manufacturing facilities, jobs and economic investment to several Latin American countries.

6. PV modules prices to fall a bit further. Solar PV module prices have fallen off a cliff in recent years. While a steep price drop simply isn’t possible any longer, IHS does project that they will fall a bit further. “Persisting manufacturing overcapacity for PV modules will result in a 10 percent decline in average selling prices (ASPs) in 2014, prohibiting any further increase in profit margins for suppliers during the year,” it says. By 2020, IHS actually projects that the prices will fall 40% compared to 2013 prices.

5. US will remain #3. The US has the third-largest population in the world, only trailing China and India. In 2013, it is set to come in third in terms of new solar PV capacity installed throughout the year. It will also sit at #3 in 2014, according to Mercom Capital Group. The research firm projects that the US will install about 6 GW of solar PV power capacity in 2014.

4. PV-related energy storage is to break through. Solar PV produces electricity at the time that it is generally most needed and most valuable — in the middle of the day. As its market share grows, and combined with certain electricity pricing schemes (ie, time-of-use pricing) and dropping solar costs, combining solar PV with energy storage becomes more and more attractive. A number of companies have seen the potential in this market and have been developing products for the residential, commercial and utility sectors. Costs have been coming down in the energy storage market at the same time. IHS projects that 2014 will see about 3.9 times more PV-related energy storage capacity installed than in 2013. Here’s the quick summary from that research team:

With the cost of solar energy plunging, demand for PV energy storage systems (PVESS) is booming, with installations set to quadruple in 2014. Worldwide installations of PVESS in 2014 will amount to 753 megawatts (MW), up from 192 MW in 2013. Strong growth will be generated by all three major segments of the market—ie, residential, commercial and utility-scale PVESS. The largest growth will be in the commercial sector, driven by demand for intelligent electricity-consumption systems in buildings.

3. Japan forecast to keep going strong. Japan’s solar policies are not as certain as those in the US or China, but with a strong feed-in tariff and a popular desire to switch to renewable energy sources as fast as possible, the country’s solar power growth has been a key solar story in 2013 and is likely to be a key solar story in 2014. “At the moment, Japan is a ‘wild card,’” says Raj Prabhu, CEO and Co-Founder of Mercom Capital Group. “Though forecast to be the second-largest market in 2014 with 7 GW installed, there are some mixed signals coming out of Japan.”

2. China to install more solar than anyone else. China’s solar goals have jumped through the roof in recent years. Mercom projects that China will install about 10.5 GW of solar in 2014, more than any country has ever installed in a single year. “Support for solar seems to be getting stronger by the day and backed up by solid goals, policies, tariffs, standards and environmental regulations,” the research group notes. Aside from the record growth, the really staggering thing is that China’s 2015 target for cumulative solar PV capacity was just 5 GW less than three years ago. Now, the country is installing about twice that much each year.

1. 40 to 45 GW of new solar PV capacity. Mercom projects that about 43 GW of new solar PV capacity will be installed globally in 2014. That will mean another record year for solar PV, and approximately 15 percent growth compared to the 2013 market. IHS comes to essentially the same conclusion. It projects that the 2014 global solar PV market will be somewhere between 40 GW and 45 GW. “Against a backdrop of reduced support and incentives in major European markets, a still-fragile global economy and major trade disputes rocking the industry, the projected level for next year is a remarkable achievement for an industry that just four years ago installed less than half this amount,” IHS writes.

Here are charts from Mercom that illustrate the overall solar PV market growth trend as well as country-specific trends:

 Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Zachary Shahan, editor of CleanTechnica and Planetsave. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of ABB or its employees.

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