Expectations cause a lot of problems — without expectations, we couldn’t be disappointed. However, it’s impractical not to have any expectations. So, the important thing is really just not to tie your happiness to your expectations too much. Work hard, be good, but also be flexible when it comes to the results. So, with that said, here are some expectations for solar energy in 2012 — hopefully, the good ones will come true (and you know that we’ll be doing what we can to help them along), but expectations are expectations, and only that.
1. Solar costs will continue to drop. It’s expected that solar costs haven’t hit their lowest point yet and that increasing deployment combined with technological improvements will keep the prices falling in 2012. That means solar hitting grid parity in even more places, even without subsidies that include their tremendous health and environmental savings.
2. Solar companies will merge, collapse, and be bought out. Competition is increasing in the solar industry. That doesn’t mean the industry is failing, as some would like to contend, but that it is maturing. The result, however, is that many companies will have to go. I think 2012 will be a year full of solar mergers, buy-outs, and even collapses. (We’ll be getting ready for the wonderful misinformation campaigns coming out of certain industries, media outlets, and political campaigns as that happens.)
3. Solar will continue to boom on rooftops and elsewhere in the U.S. Solar leasing, group purchasing and discount options, and good old solar incentives will continue to put record amounts of solar power on people’s homes and businesses in 2012. Additionally, huge utility-scale solar projects will keep moving forward and breaking new ground. Dropping solar costs, innovative technologies, and innovative business models make the clean energy option increasingly attractive, in numerous shapes and forms.
4. Attacks on the solar industry will get stronger. With solar’s increasing importance and growth, those in the fossil fuel industry or threatened by it will likely increase their attacks on the budding industry, I presume. Solyndra was just the start. How they will do this when solar remains one of the most popular things in the country (with about 95% of Americans in favor of government support for it and increasing deployment) remains to be seen.
5. More feed-in tariffs will drive fast installation of rooftop solar. In North America and around the world, I think we’ll see more governments moving forward with feed-in tariff policies to support solar. Why? Well, simply put, it’s been the most effective policy for driving solar power installation around the world.
6. PACE comeback. I think we’re finally going to see property-assessed clean energy (PACE) financing come back in the U.S. PACE financing was having tremendous success (with no harm to anyone) before Fannie and Freddie Mac inadvertently shut it down. It’s got a strong following of supporters and is a common-sense financing option that has no reason to be sitting on the sidelines.
7. China (& India?) to knock our socks off. China’s solar ambitions have increased dramatically in the last year (more than once). It doesn’t take China long to act and I think we’re going to see tremendous implementation in 2012. India’s future doesn’t seem as certain, but it has tremendous solar power goals as well, solar is now cheaper than diesel there, and many are projecting that it will become a big solar player soon, perhaps in 2012.
“Global solar photovoltaic (PV) module shipments are forecast to grow from an estimated 22.7 GW in 2011 to 43.8 GW in 2015 according to IDC Energy Insights’ Worldwide Quarterly Photovoltaic Module Tracker,” IDC Energy Insights reports. “At the same time that module prices are declining at a record-setting pace, large markets like China and India have doubled down on future solar plans and adopted extremely aggressive targets.”
“According to IDC Energy Insights most recent PV Module forecast, Asia/Pacific (including Japan) will grow from 22.9% of global module shipments in 2011 to 49.3% in 2015. Europe, which is expected to receive 66.4% of PV shipments in 2011, will decline to just 38.7% in 2015 (see chart below).”
Any other thoughts on what 2012 will bring? I did leave some notable topics out, as I’m not sure what to expect from them. Those include the solar trade dispute between U.S. & German solar companies and China, and solar policies in the UK and other European countries.