PV adds 30GW in 2012, EPIA says

The world added about 30GW of grid-connected PV capacity in 2012, compared to 31.3GW the year prior, as emerging solar markets failed to completely offset flagging demand in Europe.

The 2012 figure may yet be upwardly revised by 1-2GW, leaving the world with another record year on its hands, according to the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA), which provided the estimate.

EPIA initially pegged 2011 additions at 27.7GW, only to later revise it to 31.3GW.

However, if the 2012 figure holds static, it would be the first time in years that the industry has not topped its effort from the previous year. Globally, some 16.6GW of PV was added in 2010, 7.2GW in 2009 and 5.6GW in 2008.

The PV industry is at an inflection point, with demand leveling off and even contracting in many core European markets, and gaining momentum elsewhere.

In the eyes of many experts, the temporary slowdown may prove a good thing in the long run, forcing the fragmented supply chain to consolidate after years of fiery growth, and allowing the global market to gain a more balanced and sustainable footing.

In the short run, however, the slowdown has forced many companies into bankruptcy – and most others into steep losses – and likely exacerbated the creeping trade war threatening to engulf the global PV industry.

“The PV industry clearly faces challenges but the results of 2012 show there is a strong global market for our technology,” says EPIA president Winfried Hoffmann.

“Even in tough economic times and despite growing regulatory uncertainty, we have nearly managed to repeat the record year of 2011.”

The German market held more or less stable last year at 7.6GW, against the government’s formal target of 2.5GW-3.5GW. Meanwhile, the Italian market shriveled to 3.3GW from the record 9GW it added in 2011.

By comparison, non-European markets added more than 13GW in 2012, having put up less than 8GW the year before. The top three non-European markets were China (3.5GW-4.5GW), the US (3.2GW) and Japan (2.5GW) – a more than doubling of the size of those three markets taken together.

Wind installations grew roughly 10% worldwide last year to 44.7GW, after several years of much slower growth, according to figures released today by the Global Wind Energy Council.