A fourth-quarter boom in European PV installations is set to continue into the first quarter of 2012, according to the latest ‘European PV Markets Quarterly’ report from NPD Solarbuzz. The European market increased 23% quarter-on-quarter driven by the boom in installations in Germany but also in Belgium and the UK. Though incentive cuts dampen established markets, continued module price declines are generating emerging markets out of East and Southeast Europe. Overall, the European market in 2011 grew 18% year-on-year, according to the market research firm.

NPD Solarbuzz is forecasting that demand in Europe is expected to increase 10% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2012, fuelled by Belgium, France, Spain, and Greece, while the UK could see an acceleration in installs after the debacle over changes to the FiT, which the courts had ruled as being illegal.

“Tier 1 Chinese module manufacturers are predicting module shortages by the end of Q1’12, but the evidence for this is not totally compelling. The path for module prices in 1H’12 will largely depend on the extent to which wholesalers are confident enough to build inventories in the face of continued policy uncertainty. Germany’s role will be critical, especially because its demand profile will be significantly smoothed by its proposed change to monthly rather than biennial tariff adjustments,” noted Dr. Alan Turner, Vice President of NPD Solarbuzz Europe.

NPD Solarbuzz said that ground mounted installations, while down 13% in 2011, had a 35% share of the European market in the second half of 2011. Non-residential building mounted systems had a 55% share in 2011, while residential share rose slightly to 16%.

However, both German and Italian markets are expected to decline by 37% in 2012 as changes to the FiTs take hold. In a partial replacement for these largest markets, NPD Solarbuzz expects strong growth to come from Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and Romania. Lower module prices rather than attractive FiTs were said to be behind the growth.

NPD Solarbuzz noted examples of this new trend in the form of two 100MW PV plants built in Ukraine in 2011, while Serbia was planning the construction of two 150MW plants, as well as a 1GW project to be carried out between 2013 and 2015.