11GW of PV shipped in Q4 2012: IHS

The PV industry shipped a record 11GW of modules during the fourth quarter of 2012, and will see annual installations grow 10% this year to 35GW, making 2013 the “year of the turnaround”, according to IHS analyst Stefan de Haan.

The forecast is the latest in a series of increasingly bullish predictions for the global PV industry in 2013, with most analysts now expecting significant shipment and installation growth, even as the vast majority of companies continue to bleed red ink – and many smaller players disappear altogether.

To put the 35GW figure in perspective, five years ago, in 2008, the global PV industry added 5.6GW of capacity, while a decade ago it added just 594MW.

After a disastrous third-quarter, in which global installations and module prices fell sharply, the industry notched up a strong late-year rally and a “profound recovery of revenues”, led by surging demand in China and Japan.

“In particular, leading module suppliers benefited from the uptick in demand, and shipped much more than previously expected,” says de Haan.

The idea that the PV industry has reached – or is approaching, at least – a more sustainable phase has gained traction with investors.

After an horrific 2012, in which billions of dollars were scrubbed from the valuation of leading solar manufacturers, the past three months have seen share prices soar, with Suntech up 113%, Yingli up 78%, First Solar up 41% and Hanwha SolarOne up 33%. All major players are taking dramatic steps to trim their operational costs and return to profitability.

Importantly, the number of companies participating directly in the manufacture of PV panels – from polysilicon through module assembly – will fall to 150 this year, down from 500 in 2012 and 750 in 2010, according to iSuppli.

DeutscheBank recently predicted that global PV installations will hit 33.4GW this year – a 22% year-on-year increase in its estimation – driven by fiery growth in China, the US and India, which will at last begin offsetting flagging German and Italian demand in a significant way.

The first quarter of the year is typically a weak season for PV sales, however, and 2013 is not expected to be any different, leaving shipments and revenues under pressure again, at least temporarily.