In 2009, global production of PV cells grew 51% to 10.7 GW, from 7.1 GW a year earlier, according to a report published by GTM Research.
Panel production also rose, by 41% on 2008 to 8.9 GW, with most of those products installed in Germany in the second half of 2009. The threat of a cut in the solar subsidy, coupled with a sharp decline in panel prices led to an unprecedented 1.3 GW being installed in the final quarter of the year.
That “extraordinary result” hid the reality 2009 had been the most difficult year to date for solar energy providers. Serious oversupply and those drastic price falls caused big losses, lay-offs and supply chain consolidation, according to GTM Research lead analyst Shyam Mehta. He said 2009 had been another record year for manufacturing thanks to strong solar deployment in Germany.
Around half the cells made in 2009 came from China and Taiwan. Just five years earlier, GTM Research pointed out, European and Japanese companies had accounted for more than three-quarters of the market.
Crystalline silicon continued to dominate the technology landscape, with cell and panel production shares of 81% and 78%, respectively. At the same time, thin-film market share continued to increase in 2009, from 15% of the panels produced in 2008 to 22% the following year. For the first time, a thin-film producer – U.S.-based cadmium telluride business First Solar – became the largest manufacturer of cells and panels.
Portugal hit its quota by adding 12 MW of solar generation capacity in 2009. The government promised to multiply the cumulative capacity of 84.3 MW in October 2009 to 1.5 GW by this year.
At the beginning of 2010, the country was awaiting regulation announced by prime minister José Socrates at the end of 2009. The proposed text would raise the maximum power limit of 3.68 kW for micro-generation systems to 150 kW.
Discussion about the future of Italy’s Conto Energia solar power regulation – which was due to be in force until 2011 – still had not settled on new feed-in tariff (FIT) rates at the end of 2009. Plunging panel prices threatened a steep reduction.
Eventually legislators settled on €0.401/kWh for rooftop arrays with a generation capacity of up to 6 kW, falling to €0.277 for ground-mounted systems greater than 1 MW in scale.
Spain and France
Spanish manufacturer Instalaciones Pevafersa SL created a joint venture with French company Fonroche Energie SARL to manufacture solar modules in France. Pevafersa and Fonroche owned 24% and 74%, respectively, of the company near the city of Agen in southwest France. At the end of 2009, Agen commissioned a first production line for crystalline modules with an annual capacity of 20 MW; in April 2010, a second line would follow. The Fonroche Pevafersa consortium invested €5.5 million in the factory, whose expansion to 42 MW would cost another €3.5 million. By the end of the year, the fab would have a production capacity of 70 MW and employ more than 200 people.
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