North American PV installations to double in 2011

North America will see 1GW of Photovoltaic (PV) installations in 2010, a figure that is expected to double to more than 2GW in 2011, though it will still trail world leader Germany.  

According to research by IDC Energy Insights, financing models including power purchase agreements and solar leasing to property owners in residential and commercial buildings are expected to continue to thrive as they increase participation in the solar PV market.

“While subsidies undeniably underpin much of this growth, the young solar PV industry has been rapidly innovating in ways that make solar PV systems more cost effective, easier to install, and easier to maintain,” said Jay Holman, lead analyst for IDC Energy Insights’ Renewable Energy Strategies program.

It is believed that further cost reductions for solar PV modules, inverters, and other balance of system components, and installation labour, will be driven by increasing volumes and continuing innovation.

Holman added that the strengths of solar installation warrant the subsidies that have been received, and that the subsidies have helped the industry achieve lower costs through increased economies of scale, improved reliability, and improved performance through technological innovation. 

He believes that the industry is still young enough that these innovations are continuing at a rapid pace, and these factors, combined with apparent commitment to solar subsidies from governments around the world, suggest a strong solar industry for the foreseeable future.

It is noted that, though the forecast shows continued improvement in North America, it is clear that countries on the other side of the Atlantic are still far ahead having seen considerably more take up of PV technology.

Indeed in Germany PV capacity is miles ahead of North America, with a record 8GW being added this year, widening its lead as a top solar power market in the world.

This increase means that Germany now accounts for a total solar capacity of somewhere between 17GW and 18 GW. 

Carsten Koernig, head of Germany’s BSW solar industry association, told Reuters that it is a “fantastic development to add 8GW this year,” before noting that much of the massive increase came ahead of cuts to the feed-in-tariffs (FITs) that solar panel users can receive from utilities.

It is not expected that Germany will continue to see such rapid growth of PV installations in the coming years however, with Koernig expecting to see in the region of 3 to 5GW per year instead – the equivalent of between three to five large coal plants.

“No one would have predicted that last year’s record of 3.9GW would be doubled again this year. I don’t think this level is sustainable. But we’re hoping for annual increases of three to five GW. That would bring Germany’s total to 52 to 70GW by 2020,” said Kroenig.

In fact, according to IBTimes, it is thought that most of Europe’s demand will remain flat next year following impressive growth in the past.

“We’ve seen a bit of a cooling down in the second half after the FIT was cut by an extra 16 percent on July 1,” Koernig said. “But we’re still confident the total added this year could be about 8 GW.”