China to top 100 GW PV capacity by 2018, says NPD Solarbuzz analyst

China will not only spearhead a strong solar PV future, but bound into an insurmountable lead in the first half of this century, predicts NPD Solarbuzz senior analyst Michael Barker.

Writing in a blog post, Barker forecasts that more than 30 countries will have topped the 1 GW cumulative capacity mark for solar by 2018, with nine countries installing more than 5 GW and five countries grouped in the 10 GW to 50 GW range.

However, way out in front will be China, which is on course to achieve more than 100 GW cumulative PV installation capacity by 2018, writes Barker, who referred to the latest NPD Solarbuzz demand forecast throughout his posting.

China will account for 20% of total global PV installations by that date, the analyst predicts. But the largest percentage of installed capacity globally will be located in the 50 GW to 100 GW range, comprised exclusively of Japan and the U.S. – meaning that markets two and three in terms of size will collectively dwarf the leading market.

Despite the dominance of just a handful of markets, the fact that 29 countries should surpass the 1 GW mark by 2018 suggests that solar will continue to expand into as-yet-underdeveloped markets. NPD Solarbuzz also suggest that more than 150 countries will have viable sub-1 GW PV markets before 2030.

2014’s PV poster child, the U.K., has this year surpassed 5 GW installed capacity, but added 90% of that figure in the past three years alone, highlighting just how quickly markets can transform provided conditions are right. Conversely, the U.K.’s surprisingly robust performance also shows how difficult it can be to make accurate predictions and forecasts – a fact not lost on Barker.

"Only by making PV more competitive on a cost per kilowatt hour basis can the industry grow the overall market size and create more opportunities for upstream component suppliers, downstream project developers, and end-customers," the analyst wrote.

So far in 2014, China has added 3.3 GW of PV capacity in the first six months of the year, which is actually below projections that the country will top 13 GW of new solar capacity in 2014.