German market is hot, but how hot?

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A seasonal end of year rush to beat the changes set to take place on tariffs in Germany is on, which is potentially being fuelled further by the continued speculation over further cuts in the FiT, due to the new German Government. Germany was expected to be the largest market in 2009 for new PV installations, after the collapse of the Spanish market last year. However, a prolonged winter and the continued fall-out from the financial crisis meant that installations in Germany may not have met earlier forecasts.

However, new data from the German ‘Bundesnetzagentur,’ highlights that from January to September 2009, 1.471GW of new installations were registered. With over 300MW installed in September, October and November and possibly December installations could be much higher, but by how much?

Taking the September actual installed figure of 327MW (rounded up), and simply extending that figure through the three remaining months would see the total installations reach 2.452GW.

Ironically, that would be close to the figure (2.5GW) actually installed in Spain last year and a new annual installation record for Germany.

Market research firms completely missed the jump in installations in Spain last year and the fear is that this could happen again but with the German market.

That said, Photon Consulting is projecting installations in Germany to reach 3.9GW in 2009, according to their just released ‘Solar Annual 2009: Total Eclipse’ bible sized PV market report.

The EPIA had projected installations in Germany could be between 2GW (moderate scenario) and 2.5GW, based on a ‘Policy Driven’ scenario, so there is much leverage to be exercised in projections.

Even if we take the Bundesnetzagentur figures and my ‘reasonable’ additional MW installations into account, we still don’t get any better visibility into whether the muted additional cuts in the German FiT would spark even greater numbers, even to the point of coming close to Photon’s forecast.

PV suppliers such as First Solar, recently highlighted that demand in Germany in the third quarter was ‘seasonally strong’ and overall demand for its thin film modules exceeded supply for Q4 installations. Crystalline silicon module manufacturers based in Germany also reported strong local demand and many were burning through inventory and back to full capacity in the third quarter.

The PV industry may have entered 2009 with a whimper but it’s starting to look like it will finish on a high. How high is impossible to predict but potentially much higher than many had projected.

We will be looking closely for revised figures from the major market research firms, which must be feverishly working on those spreadsheets, right about now.

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