pvXchange figures show significant price milestone

21. June 2011 | Global PV markets, Top News, Markets & Trends | By:  Jonathan Gifford

Online photovoltaic product exchange platform shows manufacturers across all tiers dropping prices and the €1-per-watt-peak milestone being reached for modules from Asian manufacturers. Although it must be noted that this price was only reached for larger installations and therefore higher order volumes.

A photovoltaic module manufacturing facility in China.

pvXchange has seen photovoltaic module prices from Asian manufacturers drop to the €1-per-watt-peak milestone in 2011. Image: Suntech.

Yesterday pv magazine reported on recent industry analysis by IHS iSuppli, which has forecast that crystalline silicon photovoltaic module costs will drop to $1-dollar-per-watt-peak by 2012. On the sales side, pvXchange, with deep insight into the European market through its online sales platform, has noted significant price drops for large-scale projects also and the passing of a significant price milestone.

The €1-per-watt peak milestone, for modules from manufacturers from Asia, was first observed back last month as manufacturers across the industry dropped prices. "We expected the price to come down earlier in this year," analyst Goekhan Demirci explained to pv magazine, "but the manufactures were quite reluctant to go down with their prices."

The Italian job

As has been one of the major running stories in photovoltaics in 2011, the Italian market dominates the dialogue concerning this price milestone. "Many manufacturers were betting on Italy," Demirci continued, and when the market stalled in the face of regulatory uncertainty there, "we saw after April there was pressure on the prices and then in May we saw the prices hitting €1-per-watt-peak." As the Italian market has picked up after the Fourth Conto Energia was signed into law, modules on the sales side of the supply chain have been able to be quickly installed and the market has, "taken off again," according to Demirci.

Wide-scale price drops

Many manufacturers have found themselves lowering prices however, and while previously some of the larger and more vertically integrated companies have been able to hold out, "even the first tier Chinese manufacturers, who until now didn’t have problems with orders, have to concede ground on their prices," said Demirci. Some of the larger European brands and U.S. manufacturers like SunPower however, have been able to hold their prices.

Bank lending leads technology

There have been some industry predictions that thin film technology will take more market share, but in 2010, pvXchange observes, crystalline silicon dominated the market. "On the crystalline side, there were some price movements that couldn’t be matched by the thin film industry," Demirci told pv magazine. One crucial factor was that banks were reluctant to fund thin film modules, "this is where we see the crystalline silicon have a big advantage." However, he notes that if projects using thin film become more established and build a record banks feel happy they can rely on, this may change in the long term.

pvXchange has recently taken on new members to its management team and the opening of a new international arm based in Switzerland. It is part of its push into international markets including the U.S.

Dropping photovoltaic prices represent an inflection point

American photovoltaic manufacturer Applied Materials believe that falling prices - 70 percent since 2008 – will have many domestic electricity consumers reconsidering solar for their homes. In a statement announcing a new consumer survey, Applied Materials’ Charlie Gay said, "we’ve reached a critical inflection point in the cost of solar energy." The statement continued, "new technologies are making panels more efficient and scalable, [which] has made solar power more affordable than ever before."

Their survey, of over 1,000 households, found that more than a quarter of Americans are considering installing solar panels on their home and of those not considering photovoltaic installation at this time, more than 80 percent would take a closer look if there were more government incentives – offsetting the cost of installation – and it would increase their home’s value.

The survey also found that younger consumers were more likely to consider installing solar and that 72 percent of consumers would expect the panels to pay for themselves, through utility savings, in a decade or less.


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