German PV installations were stellar: Photon Consulting is clever


Photon Consulting’s forecast figures for German PV installations were virtually right on the mark, and my criticism over its forecasting credibility has been blown out of the water. Preliminary figures from the German Federal Network Agency put PV installations at 3.8GW with the potential for final number crunching to produce a higher figure. Photon Consulting had projected 3.9GW in their September 2009 release of their annual report and could prove to be frighteningly close to final figures, whenever they are issued.

Since last Friday when the German figures were released, several other market research firms have revised global PV installs to reflect the 1GW-plus frenzy of installs that took place in Germany just in  December.

Solarbuzz, for example, just revised its figures to show installs globally reached 7.3GW. IMS Research feels very proud of itself for highlighting that it was one of only a small number of research firms that had forecasted growth for 2009 and that such growth would be in the 20%-plus range, despite the fact that its forecast was issued in early 2009 when barely 2.8MW had been installed in Germany in January!

Final installation counts in Italy, for example, aren’t due for another month, which could also surprise and force global figures to be revised upwards, though these could simply be termed ‘tweaks.’

Photon Consulting’s forecasted 8.6GW of global installs for 2009 is still in the overoptimistic category but is certainly not looking ridiculous any more.

Another problem I had with Photon’s figures was its forecast for German installations in 2010, which are projected to reach 10.3GW.

Although it was a long and cold winter, the frenzy is more intense now than in the last few months of last year. If PV installers can basically handle 1.5GW in December, what is the true installed capacity capability in Germany now and through the rest of the year?

In fairness–and without supply constrains in components such as PV inverters–the record-busting figures for December multiplied by 12 could lead to 18GW installed this year. On paper, that makes Photon’s forecast for 2010 look downright conservative!

For the record, Photon Consulting is forecasting 24.4GW of new installations globally for 2010.

It is clear from first-quarter financial conference calls that many module suppliers are sold out through the first half of the year and most shipments are heading for Germany. Smaller markets simply will not be served until the second half of the year, should the German market begin to wane or completely stop after the feed-in tariff cuts are made.

However, Photon magazine’s claims of 5GW potentially being installed in Germany in 2009 remains a distortion and therefore my points on that matter in a previous blog still stand.

Does the 3.8GW installed figure for Germany support Photon magazine’s campaign for higher tariff cuts though?

I had noted in a previous blog that ‘any call for aggressive cuts is out of line with the reality of the market.’

With nearly 4GW installed in Germany last year, Solarbuzz noted that this could also lead to higher cuts being implemented.

However, as recently noted by EuPD, cuts should be calculated on the basis of long-term trends and forecasts. Prices for solar wafers are rising again because of strong global demand, so cutting tariffs based on nothing more than a six-month price slump due to very weak market demand is as flawed then as it is now.

That being said, its ‘hats off’ again to Photon Consulting for projecting so closely what the installed figures for Germany were in 2009. Credibility in that domain is well and truly restored.

I was already looking forward to the Photon conference and expo that is being hosted in Stuttgart in a few weeks. Now I am even more eager to hear about market developments and their latest forecasts for the solar industry.

Is the solar industry boring?

Not in a million light-years.

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