Clean Power

Published on September 7th, 2011 | by Andrew


Worldwide Market for Solar PV Cells to More than Double by 2020

September 7th, 2011 by  

The global market for solar photovoltaic (PV) cells will more than double by 2020, according to South Korea’s Samsung SDI, rising from 2010’s $30 billion to $70 billion. Falling prices and supportive government policies will drive the growth, Reuters reported early Wednesday.

Overcapacity will continue to challenge solar cell manufacturers and the solar power industry out to 2013, however, particularly as Chinese solar PV cell manufacturers continue with aggressive overseas expansion plans, executive vice president of Samsung SDI’s solar energy division Choi Chang-sik told Reuters’ reporters Ju-min Park and Cho Mee-young.

The solar PV industry is beginning to undergo a weeding-out and consolidation process, as evidenced by the bankruptcy of Solyndra and scaling back of manufacturing by others, such as SolarWorld shutting down production at its factory in Camarillo, California.

Cuts in solar subsidies in the troubled European Union (EU), a principal driver of the rapid growth in the solar power market for years, will dampen demand. Germany and Italy, two leading EU solar power markets, have cut back on subsidies this year.

Nonetheless, Samsung SDI plans to aggressively expand its solar PV cell production from its current ~150-megawatts (MW) to 3 gigawatts (GW) by 2015, believing that its “super-efficient crystalline solar cells will differentiate” it from competitors’ products. The company intends to invest 2.2 trillion won (~US$2.05 billion) into the business and expand into thin-film solar PV manufacturing as well.

Set for implementation after 2015, South Korea’s emissions cap-and-trade program will put a floor under demand for solar PV and clean energy domestically, Samsung SDI says. With Samsung Electronics as its largest shareholder, the company intends to leverage Samsung group operations as it expands overseas, plans for which include entering the US, Japanese and EU markets while considering emerging markets, such as China and India as well.

Known for its skill and expertise in power storage and electric vehicle battery technology, Samsung SDI acquired Samsung Electronics’ solar PV cell division for $149 million at the end of May. Bankers and investors questioned the acquisition, saying that the unit will require an enormous investment and wouldn’t contribute to the company’s earnings for two years.

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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

  • It would be very bad news if the market only doubled by 2020.

    In the recent years, we have seen 60% annual compound growth rate in production capacity (not the same as the market value but still way too much).

    2011 is predicted to grow only 15% in capacity but the industry should pick up speed again when inventories are cleared and some of the cost-lowering developments make it into production.

    If prices went down to half of the current prices, we would see extreme demand again (since PV systems would become way too good investments). In this case, the yearly installed capacity would grow at least 1000% (10x) or more since PV would absolutely enter mainstream. This would result in a 5x market value.

    I don’t think that this Samsung prediction is even close to a realistic future. Their own production will grow 20x (150MW –> 3000MW) and you can believe that others will grow production in the next 8-9 years by at least as much. It is like they are trying to paint a bleak future to avoid competition entering this industry.

    Moreover, a lot of players are building new production capacity, like First Solar, in the middle of the recession. Probably because they know that they have further cost reduction ahead so they are pretty sure that they will be able to sell their panels.

  • Anonymous

    What does that $30 to $70 billion mean in terms of watts?

    Prices should be much less than today, installed watts should rise a lot more than the 2.3x increase in (normalized?) dollars.

    I’ll be extremely surprised if we’re only installing 2x-3x per year in 2020 than now.

    Predictions are that US installations will grow at 32% per year over the next decade. That’s a doubling of installed watts every 2.25 years. We should be installing 16x as much as we are now by 2020. And we’re renewable energy sluggards….

  • Harry Jung

    2.2 trillion won is $2.05 Billion not million dollar. you should correct that

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, correcting

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