Although the long-term market outlook for the U.S. solar PV market is positive, 2012 will not offer some module manufacturers the reprieve for which they were hoping, according to a new report from ClearSky Advisors.
The company predicts installed volume will grow 7% to 1,628 MW in 2012. However, falling equipment prices – especially for PV modules – means that overall market value for 2012 will be flat or may even drop when compared to 2011.
Continued overcapacity in the solar supply chain will see the cutthroat competition in the solar PV supply chain continue, with average selling prices for modules continuing to fall for at least the first part of 2012. ClearSky Advisors adds that market conditions are not expected to significantly improve until 2014 for equipment suppliers that have managed to continue to cut costs. This is the point at which solar power will become cost-competitive even without state-level incentives, in some areas.
In the short term, the analysis performed by ClearSky Advisors points towards opportunities in carefully targeted markets. The diversity of state-level solar policies means that the U.S. market must be treated as many local markets – each with its own set of policies and conditions that determine the magnitude of the local opportunity, the company says.
‘In 2012, the U.S. PV market belongs to those equipment suppliers who are able to effectively target their market and calibrate their offering to local market dynamics,’ says Brennan Louw, senior analyst at ClearSky Advisors. ‘Simply having a presence in the California and New Jersey markets will not cut it going forward.’
Driven by state-level policies – especially states with renewable portfolio standards with solar carve-outs – market growth in 2015 will be increasingly dominated by utility-scale projects, according to the report. However, the West will remain the largest regional market for the foreseeable future, and California and New Jersey will be the single most important states for some time to come – even if both states face intermittent market disruption.