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PV installations in 2011 reached 27.7GW, a 70% increase from the previous year, according to new figures released by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA). Accumulated installations reached 67.4GW at the end of 2011, up from 39.7GW at the end of 2010. However, the EPIA warned that new markets outside Europe would need to be developed to sustain further growth in the coming decade. 

According to the EPIA, six regional markets (Italy, Germany, China, US, France and Japan) reached more than 1GW of additional capacity in 2011, up from three (Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic) in the previous year.

Europe continued to be the major market in 2011, accounting for 75% of all new capacity, according to the EPIA. The two biggest markets in 2011, Italy and Germany, account for nearly 60% of global market growth during the past year.

However, European inventive schemes are being widely curtailed and even stopped, requiring new markets to be developed if the industry is to sustain long-term growth. The EPIA noted that in 2010, 80% of global PV system connections were counted in Europe; in 2011, Europe’s share declined to 75%.

“The PV industry is at a crossroads,” noted EPIA president, Ingmar Wilhelm. “Whilst European markets have always outpaced home production, this will presumably no longer be the case in the years to come. New markets around the world will have to be opened up to drive PV development in the coming decade just as Europe accounted for it during the last decade. Strengthening the PV momentum by adding additional markets of important growth can be considered the single most important achievement on the continued growth track of world-wide PV development.”

Though worded in a typically understated way, the EPIA drew attention to the need for China, the largest single producer of PV modules, to develop its own domestic market to support future industry growth. The EPIA noted that large, emerging markets such China, USA, Japan, but also Australia and India – had "addressed only a very small part of their enormous potential."

According to EPIA, China installed at least 2GW of new PV systems, while the US added at least 1.6GW. Japan is expected to have connected over 1GW, while Australia experienced 700MW of new installations in 2011. India was said to have installed over 300MW last year.

“Moreover, several countries from large sunbelt regions like Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America are on the brink of starting their development,” added Wilhelm in a statement.

The EPIA also noted that the total energy output for PV in 2011 was equal to some 80 billion kWh, and was sufficient to cover the annual power supply needs of over 20 million households in the world.

In Europe, over 50GW of PV systems were installed at the end of 2011. With growing contributions from Southern European countries, the average load factor of this capacity is increasing and would produce over 60 billion kWh on an annual basis, enough energy to supply over 15 million European households.