Germany adds about 1.2GW of PV

About 1.2GW of PV was installed in Germany between January and May, and the country is on course to install far less in 2013 than the 7.5GW-plus added in each of the past three years, said an official of solar industry association BSW.

The total is approximate, as the BSW has only established a preliminary installation number of 360MW which could still change somewhat, said David Wedepohl, head of markets and communication at BSW, during a panel at the Intersolar Conference in Munich.

In April 368MW was installed in Germany, while in the first quarter of the year installation figures were below 300MW a month.

Wedepohl said it is extremely difficult to predict what the size of the German market will be this year, but that cuts to PV feed-in tariffs (FITs) enacted last year, the solar trade dispute between the EU and China, and added uncertainty in the market due to upcoming federal elections in Germany will make the market shrink in 2013.

The BSW reckons Germany needs to add 5GW of PV per year on average to maintain a sustainable market.

“My feeling is it’s going to be smaller this year,” Wedepohl said. “I think that 5GW would be optimistic, but I would like to see it.”

Germany’s government last year reformed its PV support system, introducing a monthly degression to FITs, the size of which depends on whether or not new installations remain within a target corridor envisaged by the government.

Based on installation figures this year so far, the monthly degression of initial PV FITs will remain at 1.8% for the next three-month period, Wedepohl reckoned, but didn’t exclude the possibility of a higher degression of 2.2%. Initial PV FITs are going down 1.8% each month in the current period from May to July.

Over the last three years, market segments within German PV installations have shifted, Wedepohl said. Small rooftop installations of up to 10kW have skyrocketed, while large-scale systems of between 1MW and 10MW have also been taking off. The mid-sized segment of between 10kW and 1MW, however, has been shrinking, he said.

“But we think there is lots of pressure on the large market sector now,” Wedepohl said, which will likely lead to a weakening of that segment.

FITs for solar arrays of 1MW to 10MW have been reduced far more drastically in Germany, making their installation scarcely viable in the northern European country, where solar radiation is low in most regions. Nevertheless, Germany has an accumulated solar capacity of more than 32GW, by far the largest in the world.