US, China hold close to 50% of global PV pipeline

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Market research group IHS has tracked 132 GW of PV projects in various stages of development around the globe, 10 GW of which are under construction.

The United States and China, with a combined pipeline capacity of 61 GW, make up almost half of the currently planned projects. However, Josefin Berg, IHS solar research senior analyst, describes a major share of the planned projects as immature and unlikely to materialize under current policy frameworks.

In total, the U.S. has 35 GW of PV projects in various phases of development, according to Berg, who cites IHS Technology’s PV Project Database. A large portion of these projects began development in 2011-2012, but have yet to sign power purchase agreements (PPAs), according to the report. Berg says large projects that fail to sign PPAs by mid-2015 are unlikely to materialize before the solar investment tax credit (ITC) expires in 2016. California remains the hotspot for very large PV plants as it reached 3.2 GW-DC of installed projects larger than 20 MW when the 170 MW-AC Centinela plant was commissioned in August, she adds. According to Berg, the state has another gigawatt of equally large projects under construction.

With 26 GW of planned PV projects, 3.7 GW of which are under construction, China is the second largest market in terms of pipeline. The number of planned projects continues to grow as local companies develop new large-scale projects.

"Most recently, China’s largest system integrator, TBEA SunOasis announced a pipeline of 1.2 GW," Berg points out. "In July, SunEdison announced it would enter the Chinese market via a partnership with Huantai to pursue 1.7 GW. Apart for specific partnerships, PV in China remains a local affair. The same month as SunEdison revealed its plans, First Solar abandoned a planned 2 GW project after four years of development."

Beyond the major PV markets, Chile stands out with a 9 GW pipeline compared to an installed capacity of just 100 MW at the end of 2013. The country’s intense PV construction activity is raising issues with grid-connections, which can complicate future projects. Chile currently has close to 600 MW of PV projects under construction and an equal amount close to breaking ground.

Access to the grid has also become an issue in the U.K.’s sun-rich areas, where most of the PV installed to date is located. PV construction activity is now spreading from the south-west to other parts of the country. The U.K. PV pipeline has grown to 7.2 GW. A significant share of these projects aim to beat the deadline for utility-scale solar parks to be completed before the planned end to the renewables obligation certificate (ROC) scheme in April 2015. IHS predicts that close to 4 GW of PV could be installed from the third quarter of 2014 through to the end of next year’s first quarter, which would nearly double the installed capacity of the U.K. in just 9 months.