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

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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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