The world will add 300GW of PV capacity between calendar years 2014-2018, equivalent to an annual market of 60GW, predicts NPD Solarbuzz.
Of that 300GW, more than half will go up in China, Japan and
the US alone.
Solarbuzz is among the most bullish PV market researchers, forecasting
just under 50GW of new capacity this year – and 100GW in the year 2018.
By comparison, the world added a record 37GW of PV capacity
in 2013, ending the year with a cumulative 136.7GW, according to the European
Photovoltaic Industry Association.
“These numbers might seem large, but even in the
demand-constrained environment [we’ve seen in recent years] the solar industry
has completely outperformed most people’s expectations,” said Solarbuzz vice
president Finlay Colville in a conference call today.
The forces governing the global PV market are changing
rapidly. Given the high cost of PV in the past, demand – itself largely a function of
the subsidies on offer – has normally dictated the global market.
That has led to the violent shakeout of manufacturers seen over
the past few years, as many important markets were closed or choked off by subsidy-weary
But the picture is transforming rapidly as solar energy
surges towards grid parity in many markets.
Over the next few
years the global market will be “supply driven”, Solarbuzz claims, meaning that
the market for modules will be largely governed by how much product is available.
Crucially, the global
PV industry is moving into a period of healthier supply-demand balance, with a
number of major PV manufacturers returning to profitability in 2013.
The global supply-chain still had more “effective production
capacity” than it needed in 2013. But the industry will this year move into
a phase where supply and demand are “largely balanced”, Colville claims.
“How long that lasts, I’m not sure,” he says. “But 2014-16 is
probably going to be a period of stability.”
Even when the industry does return to an oversupply
situation, the impact will be significantly more muted than it has been over
the past few years.
Colville notes that it was far easier for a few new gigawatt-plus
factories to totally upend the supply-demand balance a few years ago – when global
production capacity stood at only a few dozen gigawatts – than it would be today,
with some 50GW of capacity on line.
“The scope for these massive price declines is different
than it was a few years ago,” he says.
While there is every reason to believe that module prices
will continue to fall, the declines will in future be “a lot more predictable and
gradual – and they won’t hurt as much”.