IHS: Global solar PV pipeline surpasses 200 GW

The global solar PV pipeline currently exceeds 200 GW, with the United States, China and Brazil accounting for 110 GW of combined capacity, according to a new report by market research group IHS.

The extension of the U.S. solar investment tax credit (ITC) late last year has catapulted the country to the forefront, where it now boasts the biggest growth in the global solar pipeline. The U.S. saw 16 GW of new projects enter the pipeline last year; at the same time, 10 GW of tracked projects were installed or entered construction. As a result of the ITC extension, announced in December, the U.S. pipeline is now changing shape, according to the latest IHS Solar Deal Tracker.

IHS found that early-stage projects that were under pressure to complete development and break ground in order to reach completion prior to the previous deadline at the end of 2016 are now relaxing their schedules, as they do not need to begin construction before 2019 to benefit from the 30% credit.

"We expected to see some hectic activity from late-coming developers in 2016; however after the ITC extension, developers have calmed down,” said Christine Beadle, senior analyst at IHS Technology.

Fellow IHS Technology senior analyst Josefin Berg added, “A large share of the planned projects is still immature, with developers scouting for tenders and other opportunities to sign power-purchase agreements. The previous panic to complete project phases ahead of schedule has reverted to a development pipeline responding to demand and contract fulfillment.”

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the global spectrum, the United Kingdom saw its PV pipeline of pre-construction projects shrink by more than 4 GW in 2015. While projects continue to be built, few new projects have started development due to the looming expiration of the Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC) scheme in April.

IHS anticipates economies of scale and an inclination for oversized projects to lead to an increase in system sizes. It points out that two-thirds of the global PV pipeline capacity are projects larger than 50 MW.

“Developers in both the United States and China target economies of scale by implementing large projects in areas with abundant land,” IHS says. “The over-sizing of module capacity in relation to the output inverter capacity also raises total system sizes.”

In the United States, IHS tracks projects in which the module capacity is up to 40% higher than the inverters. “Among the markets with the largest pipelines, only Brazil prefers the more modest system size of 30 MW, as a result of regulation; however, Brazilian developers are bundling projects to reduce costs,” Berg said.

The IHS Solar Deal Tracker tracks more than 45,000 PV projects across the world, in various stages of development: from completed projects to those under construction to those in the pipeline.