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Feeding off solar’s global momentum

This month, representatives from across the solar industry supply chain will convene in Las Vegas for SPI 2014. I fully expect the mood of many attendees to be positively upbeat in light of some very encouraging reports and forecasts.

Several newly released industry reports provide concrete evidence of solar's positive movement. The first is the Asia Pacific Major PV Markets Quarterly report provided by NPD Solarbuzz. According to the report, the total solar PV demand from the five leading Asia Pacific (APAC) markets – China, Japan, India, Australia and Thailand – is forecast to reach 17.2 GW during the second half of 2014, accounting for almost 60 per cent of global solar PV demand.
Seasonally strong demand from China is responsible for the majority of share gains in the APAC region during the second half of 2014; about 80 per cent of PV demand in China is forecast to come from ground-mounted projects.
“China, Japan, India, Australia and Thailand are forecast to rank in the top 10 global PV markets,” said Ray Lian, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “China and Japan are dominating demand, with about half of all new PV capacity added this year.”
This is expected to grow even further given China's National Energy Administration's recently announced plans to support development of distributed generation PV projects, especially rooftop installations.
Within Japan, the pipeline of approved PV projects stands at 59 GW, according to NPD Solarbuzz. However, actual demand from Japan is forecast to exceed 5 GW in the second half of 2014. This is due to a range of factors, including qualified land resource, financing and grid connectivity.
North American activity
Statistical reports tracking solar's movement from the North American perspective are just as encouraging. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association's Q2 2014 U.S. Solar Market Insight Report, the US installed 1,133 MW of solar PV in the second quarter of this year. The achievement marked a major milestone for the period, with more than half a million homes and businesses now generating solar energy.
According to the report, the residential and commercial segments accounted for nearly half of all solar PV installations in the quarter. Across the United States, cumulative PV and concentrating solar power operating capacity has eclipsed 15.9 GW — enough to power more than 3.2 million homes. Meanwhile, the utility PV segment made up 55 per cent of US solar installations in the second quarter of the year, accounting for more than half of national PV installations for the fifth straight quarter. In just two years, the utility segment has quadrupled its cumulative size, ballooning from 1,784 MW in the first half of 2012 to 7,308 MW today.
Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO, attributes this remarkable growth, in part, to “smart and effective public policies,” such as the solar Investment Tax Credit, net energy metering and renewable portfolio standards. Industry analysts also attribute the activity to solar leasing, solar PPAs, and increasing financing options, which are making solar more accessible to previously underserved customer segments.
“By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both the US economy and our environment – and should be maintained, if not expanded, given their tremendous success, as well as their importance to America's future,” Resch explained.
According to GTM Research and SEIA projections, 6.5 GW of PV will be installed in the United States by the end of this year, up 36 per cent over 2013. Looking farther down the road, NPD Solarbuzz expects the residential segment will pass the 1 GW trailing 12-month (TTM) rate in early 2015, with strong growth forecast through 2016.
Reg Tucker is the US Editor of Renewable Energy Focus magazine.

Posted 15/10/2014 by Reg Tucker

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