While solar power still reigns as the most favored alternate source of energy, this market is going through consolidation in terms of capacity and competition. As a traditional stronghold of solar photovoltaics (PVs), Europe has been battling a financially weaker eurozone, causing investors to shift their focus to other regions such as North America and Asia Pacific.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (semiconductors.frost.com), Global Market for Green Semiconductors, finds that the market earned revenues of $46.63 billion in 2011 and expects this to reach $104.32 billion in 2017 with North America accounting for 60 percent of that year’s annual installed capacity.
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As the solar market is oversupplied and its demand is unpredictable, the price per watt of solar power has dipped. This issue also highlights the loopholes in inventory build-up, sparking concerns about price shocks when demand flattens. However, the current consolidation and solar power’s growing affordability open up more markets in North America, Japan and China.
Asia’s rise as a thriving market for solar PV is a result of its expanding economy. Consequently, it has a higher dependence on imports to meet its energy needs. Most of its oil will be shipped from politically unstable regions, along vulnerable sea routes and complex pipeline routes that cross several national borders. These hurdles are forcing the region to turn to alternate sources of energy such as solar PV.
Even though solar power will reach grid parity by 2015, power and grid management will continue to pose problems to utility owners. Therefore, many countries are working on installing smart grids and generating opportunities for distributed energy production through solar PV.
"Most market participants are increasing fab capacity to ensure that once grid parity is attained, market demand will be met and a high economy of scale will compensate for the low cost/watt of production,” said Frost & Sullivan Research Associate Shahul Nath. "Standardization among the panels will also enable electrical components to reduce costs and enable grid parity."
Until grid parity can be achieved, the slow pace of smart grid technology adoption could lead to market saturation. This is because traditional grids are incapable of controlling and managing solar power due to its unpredictability in power delivery. Other macro-economic issues, such as tightening liquidity markets and budget cuts, will also bog down the market.
The lack of infrastructure and vacillating support among governments has further stalled growth in this policy-driven market. Current policies and incentives, such as feed-in-tariff (FiT), make grids more compatible and encourage utilities to accommodate them.
"These policies have been active in Europe for the last few years but in 2011 to 2015, countries, such as Germany, will be cutting back on them, while North America and Asia-Pacific will continue to implement such regulations," said Frost & Sullivan Research Associate Robin Varghese.
Greater cooperation from governments and a larger number of application sectors will prop up the global solar PV market.
Global Market for Green Semiconductors is part of the Semiconductors Growth Partnership Services program, which also includes research in the following markets: smart grids, power semiconductors, OLED/LED, and automotive semiconductors. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.
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Global Market for Green Semiconductors / NA41-26