IMS Research last raised its global PV installations forecast for 2011 to over 22GW back in August. However, emerging markets such as North America and Asia are driving installations, especially in the second half of the year, leading to the market research firm to raise its forecast further to 24GW, a 24% increase over 2010's installation figures that IMS says reached 19GW.

IMS's recently released Q4’11 PV Demand Database shows that installations exceeded 8GW in the first half of 2011 and would reach 15GW in the second half, supporting its previous projection that installations would rise dramatically in the latter half of the year.

“Despite installations in the second half of the year being almost double those in the first half, most suppliers didn’t see any considerable uptick in orders. This is simply as a result of the high inventory levels in the channel, with customers installing previously purchased modules and inverters”, explained Ash Sharma, senior research director for PV. Earlier in the year, IMS Research revealed how module inventory stood at a huge 10GW, whilst inverter inventory was at an unusually high level at 6GW.

IMS noted that confusion over Italian installation figures prevailed, and stated that Italy would - for the first time - become the world’s largest market in 2011, installing 6.8GW of new capacity.

“There is much confusion over the size of the Italian market in 2010 and 2011 due to various data points for installations under the various ‘Conto Energias’. IMS Research has analysed module and inverter shipments to the country and cross-checked inventory levels at integrators and distributors to conclude that 4.5GW of new capacity was installed in 2010 – despite a greatly higher number claiming  the ‘Secondo Conto Energia’ which expired at the end of the year,” added Sharma.

However, Europe is only expected to see installations increase by 3% this year; Italy cannot compensate for falls in Germany and the Czech Republic and slow-downs elsewhere.

“The upswing in Italian installations won’t be sufficient to counter falls from Germany and the Czech Republic and Europe’s share of global installations will sharply fall from 82% in 2010 to 68% in 2011”, noted Sharma.

North America and Asian markets are performing well, according to the market research firm. The two regions are expected to generate 85% of the global growth in installations in 2011.

“The PV market continues to diversify in 2011; this will create short-term pain for suppliers that can no longer solely rely on one market to fuel their growth, but creates long-term stability for the industry by helping to balance the effects of a single country’s incentive policy and reduce large swings in supply and demand. This diversification is clearly continuing to happen and we have identified 20 markets that will install more than 100 MW in 2011, up from just 14 last year”, commented Sharma.

IMS also noted that Europe’s share of new installations will fall to 50% in 2012.