The Year Of Questions


Given that January has historically featured the State of the Union address from the U.S. president, this month would also be ideal for a ‘state of the solar market’ assessment. This year, however, that discussion includes many more questions than certainties. Here are a few that are weighing heavily on the industry's collective mind in 2012.

What will be the outcome of SolarWorld's trade complaint against China? How will the outcome change the global PV cell and module supply chain? Will the two sides of the conflict become amicable once again after all this is over, or is this just the beginning of a lasting rift in the industry?

What kind of support will the U.S. government give to renewable energy? How will the presidential election affect the direction of future energy policy? Will the private finance markets continue their slow transition back toward (comparative) stability and a willingness to support solar projects?

During a year when a manufacturing shakeout is predicted, who will be the survivors in the end? Will it necessarily be the biggest names in the industry? What strategies will allow them to beat out their competitors? In which countries will their headquarters and factories be located?

As many renewable portfolio standard deadlines draw closer for the U.S.' utilities, how will they choose to fulfill them? How much solar will they be interested in procuring (or required to procure)? Meanwhile, how will they respond to the increasing presence of customer-owned PV on their grids? Do the controversial new charges from San Diego Gas & Electric and Dominion Virginia represent the beginning of a
nationwide trend?

What are the prospects for concentrating solar power (CSP) and concentrated PV (CPV) in the U.S.? As several high-profile utility-scale projects transition from CSP to PV for cost- or environment-related reasons, will those CSP projects that remain under development encounter problems with financing, economics or regulations? Can CPV find a viable niche? How big is that niche, exactly?

Will employment opportunities in the installer market continue to grow? How will changes in the module and balance-of-systems equipment market affect installers' business models and costs?

File this issue of Solar Industry in a safe place, because we will revisit all of these questions at this time next year. (Eager recyclers, fear not: You will also be able to access the digital version of this issue – or any other recent one – on our website.)Â Â Â

This Sun Dial column was originally published in the January 2012 issue of
Solar Industry.

Editor's note: To submit your own contribution to Viewpoints, email Jessica Lillian at

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