NPD Solarbuzz expects bumpy road for China’s PV project business in 2013

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PV power plant installations in China are expected to fluctuate significantly on a quarterly basis throughout the next 12 months, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz quarterly report.

Installations in China are expected to reach over 7GW in 2013, yet seasonality and policy incentive deadlines have already seen demand weaken in the first quarter that has had a negative knock-on effect on global PV demand in the quarter. The market research firm still expects China to account for more than 20% of global PV market demand this year.

NPD Solarbuzz said that PV demand in China fell to around 900MW in the first quarter but could exceed 3.5GW in the fourth quarter of 2013 as project completions peak.

Volatility in China demand was said to have led to a 23% global PV demand decline in the first quarter of 2013, compared to the previous quarter. Global PV demand in the first quarter was said to have 6.2GW.

“Chinese solar PV demand was the key global driver at the end of 2012, which helped to deplete upstream inventory levels that had accumulated over previous quarters,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “However, extreme swings in PV demand from China over the next year will make capacity utilization and inventory control particularly challenging. At the same time, demand from other global PV markets is beginning to offer predictable quarterly demand levels that are essential for long-term planning.”

However, other markets were expected to provide greater quarterly stability, notably Germany, Italy, France, and the UK, due to European PV demand no longer dominated by policy deadlines.

NPD Solarbuzz expects European demand to be relatively flat quarter-on-quarter, with quarterly demand within a range of 2.7 to 3.2 GW. Key markets of Germany, Italy, France, and the UK are expected to account for over 65% of European demand in 2013.

Less quarterly volatility is expected in the US and Japan, though these key emrging markets are expected to have different demand cycles. The Japanese market is expected to be strongest during the first half of the year and the US market in the second half.

The market research firm expects new demand from the emerging PV markets, such as the Middle East and Southeast Asia, coupled to the US and Japan as a rest-of-world (ROW) category would overall provide stable PV demand over the next four quarters, ranging from 2.5 to 3.6GW each quarter.

“Volatile demand swings will continue to hamper the growth of the solar PV industry over the next four quarters, with production and shipment schedules having to be adjusted each quarter,” added Barker. “These effects will have the most profound impact on suppliers that rely upon China as the dominant end-market for shipments. Suppliers that are focused on Europe, Japan, and the US will see more stable quarterly demand trends, and will be able to plan production schedules with far greater visibility.”

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