As my early 2011 blog posts predicted, there was little growth in 2012 over 2011. The overall GW installed in 2012 grew slightly over 2011 (from 27GW to about 29GW), largely because Germany installed 7.5GW, as opposed to their 3.5GW goal. The overall dollar size of the PV panel market shrank by about 50% as industry consolidation drove panel prices down to around $0.70/Wp and installed utility projects to about $2.40/Wp in the US. Projections going forward are for about a 20% annual increase in installed capacity. Panel prices will stabilize somewhere between $0.70 and $1.00 as the shakeout continues into 2013 and then slowly decline from there in future years as the installed capacity grows.
This leaves prices still too high to compete without subsidies even in the best sunny locations. This means the market size is still determined by the amount of subsidy, which with reducing subsidies explains the modest growth projections (China and Japan are exceptions). PV has yet to become a significant % of the grid in any geography, so as yet additional costs for backup and transmission are not being counted. This will change going forward and act as a further brake on possible PV growth.
Green advocates like Greenpeace need to become more realistic in their assessments. Current wind and solar will not make a significant impression on CO2 reduction before 2035 and currently could easily be adding to CO2 rather than reducing it. The impact is so small as not to be measurable in the current atmospheric CO2 levels. Unrealistic optimistic wishful thinking are damaging the prospects for any meaningful policy to reduce CO2. NREL and other researchers bring out studies that purport to show that the world could adapt to run on mostly wind and solar, but donât spell out the costs. More importantly in a world where the US is a decreasing influence on energy and everyone has to act together, what the US does alone is increasingly irrelevant.
As I keep repeating, a PV solution that enables todayâs PV cells to produce cost competitive electricity without any subsidy, eliminates reliability and backup costs and long transmission lines, and does this for all geographies including cloudy and/or northern locations deserves some consideration.
By Edmund Kelly