Solarexpo Verona: Mixed expectations

Adding 9.3 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic capacity in 2011, bringing the total to 12.7 GW, in 2011 alone, the Italian market is the world’s second largest, behind Germany. This was clearly evident in Verona, in the north of Italy, over the past four days as Italian photovoltaic manufacturers, integrators, distributors and suppliers turned out in force for the 13th Solarexpo. Chinese manufacturers and companies from throughout Europe were also prominent amongst the approximately 1,000 exhibitors.

However Italy’s largest solar trade show did not live up to previous years with exhibitor numbers appearing to be down with sections of some of the 10 exhibition halls going unused. Most conspicuous in their absence were the majority of equipment suppliers.

5th Conto Energia

Revisions to the Italian Government photovoltaic subsidy program cast a tall shadow over trade-show proceedings, with a draft of the fifth annual "Conto Energia" being discussed at the parallel "Italian PV summit". While much of the detail in the legislation is still being ironed out, a key aspect is a 35 percent reduction in feed-in tariffs (FITs) and a cap of qualifying installations, referred to as a "corridor to bridge the whole market to the grid parity", of two to three GW.

Another proposal to create a "booking register" for installations greater than 12 kilowatts (kW) was criticised by the Italian photovoltaic industry for creating unnecessary "red tape".

There was much speculation amongst trade show attendees as to the detail of the new Conto Energia. Andreas Liebheit, the Vice President of Marketing and the Director of the EMEA region for manufacturer Hanwha Solar, told pv magazine that he did not expect for significant support for photovoltaics to remain in the fifth iteration of the program. He added that he also understands that the 10 percent domestic content provision will also be removed in the new decree.

Jinko Solar’s Chief Marketing Officer Arturo Herrero said that he hopes that demand is still flowing through to producers before any FIT cuts are made, which is helping in the short term, however longer terms a shift to the rooftop market after July of this year. "We are changing our strategy at Jinko Solar, we are going to be dedicated much more to residential markets, to small roof installations and to work much more with out distributor network," said Herrero.

Emerging Chinese manufacturer Phono Solar had its BIPV products on display at Solarexpo, which it believes will represent a market of real growth in Italy in the future. Italian Manager Felice Lucia told pv magazine that he expects the BIPV market in Italy to reach 100 megawatts (MW) in 2012, with that "growing rapidly" in coming years. He said that because Phono Solar is not yet locked into GW-scale production, it is nimble enough to supply this emerging market segment. Lucia continued that with the current "credit crunch" still biting in Italy, financial solutions are also required to stimulate the market.

At present Phono Solar offers an "open account" or six months of "bridge financing" for customers in the Italian market, initiatives Lucia claims that garnered significant interest at Solarexpo. Hanwha Solar also reported that it was pursuing financing models and in particular solar leases, which the company is building experience in, in the U.S.