Clean energy communications and consulting firm Mercom Capital has forecast 2013 solar installations to reach 34.5GW.

Raj Prabhu, author of the report, CEO and Co-Founder of Mercom Capital, said low module prices have continued to drive installations alongside Germany defying expectations and installing 7.6GW in 2012.

For 2013, Mercom predicts that a significant number of installations will come from emerging solar markets such as China, Japan and India.

China's solar industry continues to face multiple challenges including economic slowdown, tightening credit by the state owned banks, significant debt exposure to solar manufacturers, bankability issues, low tariffs, cumbersome bureaucracy, along with trade disputes, which could hinder future development.

Despite this, the Chinese government has announced the allocation of about US$2 billion for the second round of projects for its Golden Sun Program in 2012, and a direct subsidy of US$0.40 per watt.

In Japan, generous feed-in tariffs and high rates of return have helped spur growth, said Mercom Capital. Final PV installation numbers in 2012 are expected to be in the 2,500MW range. In tune with installations, domestic PV shipments have continued to rise as well.

Indian solar installations have been driven by the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission although the country installed 980MW last year, which was slightly lower than Mercom’s forecast of 1,090MW.

The difference was largely due to delays in Gujarat to commission 144.5 MW of PV projects; most states missed their renewable portfolio obligations (RPO) goals, states Mercom. Cumulative installations to date in India now stand at over 1.2GW. In addition, there are 340MW of PV projects due to be connected to the grid in March 2013 under the JNNSM Phase I, Batch 2 policy. Mercom forecasts India to install another 1.3 to 1.4GW in 2013.

Other markets such as the US saw a rise in the capacity of utility-scale projects third party-financed residential and commercial installations and state Renewable Portfolio Standards. Mercom states that the country is expected to have installed between 3,000-3,500MW in 2012 compared to about 1,850MW in 2011.

However, a recent EuPD Research report said Germany may not make as large a contribution to installation figures this year as last year. EuPD expects only 3.9GW of new capacity to be installed in the country in 2013.

Prabhu noted, "Forecasts are highly subjective and solar forecasts are especially fluid as they are heavily dependent on ever-changing policies and policy makers.

“We are also forecasting based on the assumption that 2012 installations are in the 31GW range – numbers are still trickling in. We do this forecasting exercise on a quarterly basis and adjust according to market conditions. We look at the big markets like Germany, Italy, China, India, US, France and Japan a little bit more closely.

“A lot of the 2013 forecast rides on the Chinese market, generally almost everyone takes the Chinese government goals as the forecast,” Prabhu concluded.