It was announced in the middle of August that the UK had surpassed 5 GW worth of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, just the sixth country to have done so. However, Michael Barker, a senior analyst for NPD Solarbuzz, has written in a blog post that such a milestone will soon mean very little as countries start passing 10 GW, 50 GW, and even 100 GW in cumulative market capacity.
The latest statistics from NPD Solarbuzz demand forecasts predict that by the end of 2018 there will be at least nine countries with installed solar PV capacity levels above 5 GW.
But that’s nothing when compared with the company’s prediction that China will surpass the 100 GW capacity mark in the same year, accounting for over 20% of total global solar PV installations.
As seen in the chart above, the largest percentage of installed capacity globally will come from the yellow 50-100 GW range, made up by Japan and the US.
The UK achievement of 5 GW was relatively unheralded, despite it being “at least worthy of a group hug,” according to Solarbuzz Vice President Finlay Colville. 90% of the capacity has been installed over the past 3 years, an impressive achievement, especially when you consider that 46% of the capacity was installed in two regions.
However, China has been making huge leaps and bounds in developing its own capacity base, thanks to increased demand and the ever-present Chinese manufacturing machine.
The global solar market is expected to reach $137 billion in 2020, according to business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, thanks in part to the massive growth being experienced in China. Over the past few years, I’ve reported on several of China’s record-breaking announcements: In 2012 the Asia-Pacific solar market had grown by 165% throughout 2011, thanks primarily to a mammoth growth of 500% in China; a year later another report suggested that the Asia Pacific renewable energy market could hit 535.2 GW by 2020; and in 2013 a Solarbuzz report predicted that the region would account for half of global PV demand in 2014.
Predictions aside, however, China is making its own history. The country’s capital announced early-August that it was going to ban coal by 2020 in several of its inner-city districts, a promise that was immediately backed up by news that the city had cut coal use by 7% in the first half of 2014. At the same time, the country increased its 2014 solar installation target to 13 GW, a target it intends to reach by “supporting the development of distributed PV power generation” according to Wu Xinxiong, head of the country’s National Energy Administration.
Still think the country might struggle to hit such a milestone as 100 GW in the next four years?
Consider, finally, that Chinese solar PV module suppliers are currently responsible for 71% of all PV module shipments from the top 20 suppliers, with “leading Chinese module suppliers Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, Jinko Solar, and JA Solar all expected to report record shipments for Q2’14.”
Furthermore, 29% of those PV module shipments are coming straight home to China.
”Leading Chinese solar module suppliers continue to have opportunities to increase shipment volumes,” said Ray Lian, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “With their domestic market in China forecast to exceed 10 GW in 2H’14, different supply strategies are likely to emerge to address local and overseas markets.”
100 GW sounds a frighteningly impressive milestone, however when you consider that China was reported to have an installed generating capacity of 1,146 GW (Mecometer), and an ever-increasing population, 100 GW suddenly sounds rather sensible.
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