Although 2014 remained a challenging time for the solar photovoltaic industry, a new white paper issued by IHS says demand grew at a double-digit pace, largely due to policies in China and Japan, yet conditions remained extremely tough for suppliers.
‘Through mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies, the supplier base consolidated further, as companies struggled with debt-laden balance sheets and a rapid shift in their customer base away from their traditional markets,’ says Ash Sharma, senior research director for solar at IHS. ‘All signs point to a strengthening recovery of the solar industry in 2015, even if the recovery itself remains incredibly fragile.’
The IHS solar team's top 10 predictions for 2015 are as follows:
1. Global solar PV demand is forecast to grow by up to 25% in 2015. Due to the ongoing cost reductions for solar PV, IHS forecasts that installation demand will grow at 16% to 25%, resulting in 53 GW to 57 GW of new capacity. Geographically, the largest markets again will be China, Japan and the U.S. In terms of absolute growth, the top markets will be China, the U.S. and India.
2. Concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar power will experience accelerated growth. Starting in 2015, IHS forecasts a CPV market expansion of 37%, to reach approximately 250 MW of new installations.
3. Distributed generation (DG) PV in China will lag behind previous forecasts but will continue to grow. IHS forecasts that DG solar installations in China will reach 4.7 GW in 2015, an increase of nearly 20% from 2014. IHS says the market is clearly beginning to build momentum, and policies and business models are helping to accelerate growth.
4. Grid-connected PV energy storage installations will triple, reaching 775 MW in 2015. The PV power system is evolving away from the traditional and relatively simple system of one-directional flow – from large-scale conventional generators through transmission and distribution lines to consumers to an increasingly complex mix of small, distributed generators and consumers at all points in the electricity grid.
5. Emerging markets will mature. IHS forecasts that Chile will be the next emerging market, after South Africa, to reach the milestone of 1 GW in installed PV solar capacity. Aside from Chile, other new emerging markets poised for rapid growth are Jordan, the Philippines and Honduras. Conversely, great uncertainty still surrounds Mexico, Brazil and Turkey.
6. Monocrystalline technology will increase market share. Although monocrystalline technology will not threaten multicrystalline domination in the near future, IHS expects it will steadily gain share, benefiting from growth on rooftop installations as well as increasing demand for higher-efficiency products. IHS forecasts the monocrystalline share of global cell production will increase to 27% in 2015, up from 24% in 2014.
7. Systems up to 100 kW will account for 30% of global installations, reflecting the potential for DG solar in both established and emerging markets. IHS forecasts 15.7 GW of such installations in 2015, up from 13.2 GW in 2014. The largest market for these installations will be Japan, with DG solar accounting for nearly 70% of installations. The U.S. is also expected to install more than 2.2 GW of DG solar in 2015, as net-metering and third-party ownership models continue to drive this market.
8. The halt in the second quarter to the U.K.'s incentives-driven utility-scale PV boom will trigger a new wave of consolidation among European engineering, procurement and construction firms. However, the lingering effects of the renewable obligation certificates scheme will enable the U.K. to dominate the utility-scale PV landscape in Europe with 1.4 GW of ground-mount systems.
9. Three-phase string inverters will account for one-third of global solar inverter revenue, with sales forecast to exceed $2.2 billion. Estimated shipments of three-phase string inverters in 2015 will exceed 15 GW, up 31% from 2014. A surge is expected in important markets like China and Japan, whose combined shipments will account for 7.6 GW of the total.
10. California in 2015 will become the global leader in solar power penetration. IHS expects that by the end of the year, solar power is expected to provide more than 10% of California's annual power generation. This penetration level would push California above other leading global solar markets – such as Germany and Italy – in terms of the share of total power generation sourced from solar PV.