Will the second half of 2010 look like the first half of 2009? That's the big fear in the solar industry, according to speakers at the 2010 Solar Summit sponsored by Greentech Media.
Solar is growing. Make no mistake. Globally, 9 gigawatts of solar may get deployed this year, according to GTM Research. That would be 50 percent growth over 2009. But declining prices for panels and factory capacity will squeeze margins. And changes to subsidy programs may create a situation where demand slows as the year goes on.
"That's what we are all holding our breath about," said Jim Pierobon, vice president of policy and marketing development at Standard Solar, during a meeting in the hallway.
As usual, the big factor determining the health of the industry is Germany. In the first half of 2009, only around 500 megawatts of solar were installed in Germany. In the second half of 2009, approximately 2.5 gigawatts of solar were installed in the country, according to GTM Research senior analyst Shayle Kann.
"That's a fivefold increase in the second half of the year," he said.
Germany, however, is set to readjust its feed-in tariff on July 1. The tariff for rooftop installations will likely decline by 16 percent and 11 percent for ground-mounted installations. The industry may not sink into the funk it found itself in in 2008 and 2009 as the German market slows, but it will likely, palpably slow.
"Germany will quickly lose its shine in the second half," said Kann. "There is a rush to get projects (in Germany) in the ground now."
What does this mean for module makers? By the middle of the year, modules might sell for $1.50 to $1.75 per watt in Germany. But if demand dips, the prices may have to dip toward $1.35 a watt in Germany. Not everyone will be able to sell at that price and make money, said Kann.
How bad the drop is depends on a variety of factors. Italy could soak up a lot of the modules now coming out of factories. Italy installed 544 megawatts of solar in 2009 and 47 percent of that total came in the last two months of the year, Kann said. The margins for independent power providers in the country is quite healthy, helped in part by high prices for conventional power in Italy. Up to a gigawatt could get installed in Italy this year.
"But it can't replace Germany," he said....MORE