Solar has found its cost-per-watt sweet spot, according to Pike Research.
The research analyst found that in 2008 a lack of readily available credit and the expensive cost-per-watt of solar compared to other energy sources created a glut of solar panels on the market. This glut, along with lowered polysilicon costs which enabled crystalline silicon solar cells to be made for less money, resulted in overall lower prices for solar cells.
The consequence of all this is exactly what one might expect. There are right now approximately 190 solar cell and module manufacturers in existence, according to the Pike Research report "The New Solar Market" released Wednesday. The research analyst predicts lower prices and increased competition will force manufacturers to consolidate with other companies or even go out of business altogether. Pike was not so bold, however, to make a prediction as to exactly how many companies might be left in 2011.
On the consumer end, credit availability coming back and the price decrease for solar installations spurred by the glut led to a market shift that increased demand toward the end of 2008 and in 2009. This trend will continue and lead to an increased interest and worldwide demand of about 43 percent growth for 2010 compared to 2009. It's about the equivalent of 10.1 gigawatts (GW) worth of solar equipment, according to Pike Research.
Pike also said the appeal of "one-stop shopping" will contribute to the growth.
As Green Tech has been reporting, there's a trend of solar manufacturers, developers, and installation companies joining forces to offer turnkey solar solutions for utilities, municipalities, and even private companies looking to self-supply. The idea of turn-key solar seems to have originated in thermal solar, but manufacturers of solar and concentrated solar systems have also formed partnerships to take care of the complicated headaches of planning, permitting, and developing medium- to large-scale solar farms.
But this growth will no longer be driven by the usual leader. Spain has been at the forefront of solar installation, for the obvious sunny reason one would expect, for quite some time. It's about to be built-out, according to Pike Research.
The Spanish market is almost completely saturated in terms of new growth, and others will be picking up the solar charge. China, Germany, Italy, and the United States are going to be the next leaders in solar and will drive the worldwide market to a demand of about 19 gigawatts worth of solar installations for 2013, Pike Research predicts.