2011: 27.7 GW of PV installed; full potential of many markets unfulfilled

26. January 2012 | Top News, Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Markets & Trends | By:  Becky Stuart

According to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), in 2011, photovoltaic installations grew 11 GW over 2010. While emerging markets played a vital role in this growth, they have yet to fulfill their "enormous" potential.

Fürstenwalde photovoltaic solar project, Germany

Photovoltaics is now the third most popular renewable energy.

Newly installed, grid connected photovoltaic capacity increased from 16.6 gigawatts (GW) in 2010, to 27.7 GW in 2011, thus taking accumulated installed global capacity to over 67.4 GW. This means photovoltaics is now the third most implemented renewable energy, after hydro and wind power.

"The growth rate of PV during 2011 reached almost 70 percent, an outstanding level among all renewable technologies. The total energy output of the world’s PV capacity run over a calendar year is equal to some 80 billion kWh," remarked EPIA in its 2011 market report. This volume is said to be enough to cover the needs of more than 20 million households.

Europe leads

Of this 27.7 GW figure, nearly 21 GW was installed in Europe, with Italy and Germany accounting for 60 percent of growth globally. Furthermore, a total of six markets have now installed more than one GW, up from three in 2010. Overall, Europe now accounts for over 50 GW of photovoltaics.

"With growing contributions from Southern European countries, the average load factor of this capacity is increasing and will produce some 60 billion kWh on an annual basis, enough energy to supply over 15 million European households," said the association.

Confirming earlier news reports, EPIA found that in Italy overtook Germany for the first time last year, having installed nine GW. Germany fell back to second place at 7.5 GW, although with a cumulative capacity of 24.7 GW, it is still well ahead of Italy’s 12.5 GW.

China (two GW), the U.S. (1.6 GW), France (1.5 GW) and Japan (1.1 GW) complete the top five leading countries in terms of 2011 installed capacity. Australia (700 megawatts (MW)), the U.K. (700 MW), Belgium (550 MW) and Spain (400 MW) follow.

Cumulative total installed capacity tells another story, however. As aforementioned, at 24.7 GW and 12.5 GW, respectively, Germany and Italy lead the way. They are followed by Spain at 4.2 GW, France, at 2.5 GW and Belgium, at 1.5 GW.

While not big compared to their peers, Slovakia and Greece were identified by EPIA as being key markets, having each installed 350 MW in 2011. Meanwhile, although the Czech Republic ranked as the third biggest market in 2010, it has since "disappeared from the PV map, with less than 10 MW of new PV installations as a result of strong opposition from major stakeholders."

Emerging markets

While EPIA underlined the importance new markets have played in driving new photovoltaic installations, it states that many have still to reach their full potential.

"… many of the cited markets, in particular China, the USA and Japan, but also Australia and India, have addressed only a very small part of their enormous potential; several countries from large sunbelt regions like Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America are on the brink of starting their development," it said.

The association also highlighted the photovoltaic contributions of Canada, the Ukraine and Israel, which installed 300 MW, 140 MW and 130 MW, respectively.

Crossroads

As was widely reported throughout 2011, the photovoltaic industry suffered significant price drops and saw supply majorly outstrip demand. Due to these factors, EPIA  says that the industry is at a crossroads. 

It explains, "Whilst European markets have always outpaced home production, this will presumably no longer be the case in the years to come. At the same time, massive capacity build-up concentrated in Asia has not yet led to a sustainable growth momentum in local markets and is far from being in tune with its enormous production power."

In terms of moving forward, the report lays out three "hints". These are:

  • Large producer countries need to activate their home markets;
  • New markets must be opened up; and
  • The principles of open markets and fair competition should be recalled.

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