Friday, December 28, 2007

PV solar data in 2006 and 2007 - (less than meets the eye?)

According to some reports, there has been some impressive 2006 and 2007 growth in the PV solar space. The actual report is here. Diving into the numbers however leads me to some more conservative conclusions.

  • Annual PV production increased to 3,800 megawatts globally in 2007, up an estimated 50 percent over 2006. Cumulative global production is now at 12,400 MW. Since 2002, production growth has increased 48 percent each year.
The usual caveat is that the production capacity base has been so low for so long, that 12.4 GW (non-peak) is an infinitesimally small amount of energy capacity globally. While these are good numbers that the media and investor community can publicize, I’m more interested in installation than production. Unfortunately, annual installation numbers aren’t as impressive, except in the US.
  • According to the 2007 estimates, annual worldwide installation increased to 2,287 megawatts, up 31% from 2006 when 1,740 megawatts installed.
Breaking down the numbers on a region-specific basis adds some additional color:
  • In 2006, Germany added 1,050 megawatts, and another 1,260 megawatts in 2007 (estimate). There are now more than 300,000 buildings with PV systems in Germany.
  • Japan, the United States, and Spain round out the top four markets with 350, 141, and 70 megawatts installed in 2006, respectively. Japan’s growth slowed considerably, while Spain tripled its PV installations in 2006.
  • The growth in U.S. installations increased from 20% in 2005 to 31% in 2006, primarily driven by California and New Jersey. Initial estimates for the United States as a whole indicate that PV incentives helped to achieve an incredible 83% growth in installations in 2007.
In that Germany has accounted for at least half of all global installation since 2003, its phenomenal growth has pushed overall global growth rates higher. Removing Germany from worldwide numbers reduces previous annual growth rates in PV installation from 2003-2006, but increases this year’s growth to 48%.

[Click picture for larger image]

While these are positive numbers, I always keep in mind that consumer adoption rates have been much higher for other technologies. While perhaps a bit apples to oranges, consider the following:

Several years of 40%-50% annual growth are very positive, but given that PV solar is on less than 1% of all American roofs, there will need to be many more years of 75% growth (and higher) to reach 10% and 50% adoption.

The top five PV-producing countries are also interesting.
  • Ranked in order, they are Japan, China, Germany, Taiwan, and the United States, with China expected to be number one by 2008. China almost tripled its PV production in 2006, and is estimated to have doubled it again in 2007.
Finally, unfortunately costs still don't appear to be coming down. While everyone is aware of the impact of the polysilicon shortage, looking at the past few years isn’t especially heartening. Although spun in this report as an overall decline, and 2007 numbers aren’t included, one can see the impact of supply constraints and strong demand.

Overall, the first set of numbers looking at the 2007 solar industry are positive. While these are good numbers (and if you’re a PV solar advocate, credit to the Earth Policy Institute for spinning them so strongly), 2007 and 2008 actual results may need to be much higher to justify the positive press and investor interest.


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