Industry expects rapid growth as Chinese market thrives and problems posed by panel glut recede
Solar developers are expected to install a record 44.5GW of capacity this year, equating to an almost 21 per cent year-on-year increase.
The figures, from a Bloomberg survey of nine analysts and companies, are driven in large part by continuing optimism about the thriving Chinese market, which became the world leader for the first time last year.
State support for solar PV projects in China has helped drive down installation costs and accelerate growth across the industry. Buoyant markets in Japan and the US, which are expected to install 10.5GW and 5.3GW of capacity respectively in 2014, have also helped offset lower installation numbers in Europe.
Chinese solar developers installed as much as 12GW of capacity last year and may well build more in 2014, according to analyst Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), although the chances of a large surge in installations are tempered by the fact the government has set a 14GW cap for the year.
"The 2013 figures show the astonishing scale of the Chinese market," said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BNEF. "PV is becoming ever cheaper and simpler to install, and China's government has been as surprised as European governments by how quickly it can be deployed in response to incentives."
The worldwide industry is also regaining momentum, according to the report. Last year new capacity rose by 20.3 per cent, after a 4.4 per cent gain in 2012. Global investment in solar installations totalled $102bn (£61.3bn) in 2013, according to BNEF, while the second half of the year saw solar manufacturers rebound from earlier losses caused by a glut of panels on the market. The NYSE Bloomberg Global Solar Energy Index has jumped more than 70 per cent in the past year, with several stocks more than tripling in value.
In related news, SunEdison yesterday announced the closing of a non-recourse debt financing arrangement with Deutsche Bank, the proceeds of which will be used to finance the construction of four utility-scale solar projects in the UK with a combined 56MW capacity. The projects, currently under construction in Swindon, Wiltshire, North Devon and on the Essex/Suffolk border, are expected to be fully operational by the end of next month.
"After two years of a punishing downturn, the global solar industry is on the rebound," Ash Sharma, senior research director for solar at IHS Inc, told Bloomberg. "Worldwide PV installations are set to rise by double digits in 2014, solar manufacturing capital spending is recovering, module prices are stabilising and emerging markets are on the rise."