Strong demand for solar installations across multiple markets such as Europe, U.S., Japan, and China but especially Germany has forced market research firm Solarbuzz to increase its forecast for the solar industry in 2010. The firm has also made upward adjustments to its 2009 final installation figures to 7.5GW, compared to its previous projection of 7.3GW, issued in April.
“Despite much uncertainty over policy outcomes a challenging economic environment and inverter supply, the PV industry is once again demonstrating consumers respond to supportive government policies,” said Craig Stevens, president of Solarbuzz. “The growth in demand is a response to major cuts in price levels afforded by lower manufacturing costs. As a result, module and inverter supply is just barely keeping up with demand.”
Despite the expected feed-in tariff cuts due in markets such as Germany, Solarbuzz believes that continued attractive module pricing will result in 8GW installed in Germany this year.
Revenue growth for the industry in the first quarter of 2010 was nearly four times the level of one year earlier, Solarbuzz said. This was a drop of 40% to just over US$12 billion compared with the fourth quarter of 2009. The significant increase in revenue on a Y-o-Y basis and typically the weakest quarter for demand strongly indicates that significant annual growth can now be expected, barring any macroeconomic events.
Revenue growth is also underlined by price rises at the wafer, cell, and module levels due to capacity constraints, which are set to continue at least through the second quarter. Solarbuzz estimates that upstream inventory days will remain flat through the end of the second quarter, whereas downstream days are expected to fall to one-third of their levels seen at the end of the first quarter.
Solarbuzz also confirmed PV-Tech’s report on Sharp becoming the largest PV manufacturer in the first quarter of 2010, by revenue, surpassing thin-film producer First Solar. First Solar retained the top position in MW production terms, while Suntech Power was closing in on revenue terms, taking the number-two slot.