Global Markets and Technologies for Photovoltaic Systems

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Technologies for Photovoltaic Systems

Global revenues from solar cells and modules totaled nearly $38.7 billion in 2011 and should decline to $28.6 billion in 2012. Total revenues are expected to reach $78.1 billion in 2017 after increasing at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22.3%.
Europe holds the largest share of the market and should increase from nearly $16.7 billion in 2012 to $35.1 billion in 2017, a CAGR of 16.1%.
Asia is expected to increase from nearly $8 billion in 2012 to $27 billion in 2017, a CAGR of 27.6%.

BCC Research's goal in conducting this study was to determine the current status of the global market for photovoltaics (PV) and then to assess its growth potential over a five-year period from 2012 to 2017. We last studied this industry in 2010 and were particularly interested in the impact on the market of the surging global demand for energy, improvements in solar PV technology, declining costs of photovoltaics and the impact of climate change on renewable energy sources.

We were also interested in the impact of incentives on solar sales and installations. Our key objective was to present a comprehensive analysis of the current market for PV and its future direction.

BCC Research also wanted to further investigate the niche concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) market due to its strong showing in the U.S. market, in part to see if its American success would be replicated elsewhere. Technologies Systems

We also wished to examine the progress of the building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) market, which we last looked at in January of 2011. This is justified due to the very high CAGR percentage we assigned to growth through 2016 and assumptions we made about the recovery of construction following the protracted financial recession starting in 2008.

Modern PV technology dates back to the 1950s and the advent of the space program in the 1960s, but the concerted effort to develop this technology for industry and consumer use began during the oil embargoes of the 1970s. However, the eventual stabilization of oil prices had a dampening effect on investment, tax credits and government funding for research and development.

Companies in the PV business have focused on reaching grid parity-where electricity generated by solar power is equal to or below the cost of electricity from competing sources-as a way to broaden the scope of PV. Nations and individual states began to offer serious incentives such as tariffs and tax credits for solar customers. Consequently, we were interested in looking at this industry once again to chart its potential.

Since 1978, the installed cost of solar electricity has charted a downward path strongly reminiscent of declines in the cost/performance ratios found for computer memory and MIPS (million instructions per second, a common metric for performance in the computer industry). From $5/kwh in 1978, the cost of electricity generated by solar power has dropped to $0.20/kwh in 2010. A simple extension of this curve would bring the cost of electricity delivered by solar sources to parity with other generating sources by 2015. Although few believe the performance of solar power improvements can match the dramatic improvements in computer technology, it has only to continue for three more years to make an impact on the marketplace. A lot is riding on the short-term performance of solar power and many are keenly interested in the results.


In this PV study, we present current and emerging technologies, details of the industry structure (e.g., the leading players in equipment and materials) and analyze the competitive environment, major applications, current and future markets, growth factors and details of cells and modules shipments for 2011, 2012 and 2017. This study will be of interest to those who manufacture solar cells, modules, inverters, racking mounts, tracking systems, polysilicon and interconnection materials, as well as those involved in the sale and distribution of concentrated photovoltaic systems and building integrated photovoltaic systems. It will also be of interest to those companies engaged in nanotechnology and materials for flexible substrates.

In addition, utility companies, construction firms, regulators, legislators and policy advocates will find its contents to be of value.

Not covered in this report are subsectors that are unquestionably a part of solar power but do not use photovoltaics, such as concentrating solar thermal systems, solar water heaters and the like.


The scope of this study encompasses the major PV technologies: monocrystalline silicon, multicrystalline silicon, thin films (e.g., amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, copper indium diselenide), compound semiconductor materials (e.g., gallium arsenide) and emerging approaches such as nanostructured films, dye- sensitized solar cells and organic technologies. BCC Research analyzes each technology, examines its current and potential efficiency, assesses the current market status of each, examines its future market impact and presents shipments of PV cells and their values for 2011, 2012 and 2017.

Various technical issues are discussed and a thorough economic analysis of each technology and its impact on future growth is presented. We also look at polysilicon, building integrated photovoltaic markets (BIPV) and concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) at a higher level with the goal of helping readers understand their relationship to the PV market.

In this report, we analyze the PV industry on a global basis, including manufacturing capacity and consumption by various regional markets. We examine government funding and support, industry involvement, standards, the environmental impact of solar energy and the impact of incentives to use PV. We also discuss the potential for applications-both grid-connected and standalone. Projections of cell and module shipments by major applications are also presented for the five years covered in our study.

Both primary and secondary research methodologies were used in preparing this study. BCC Research presents an analysis for each PV technology of the number of cells, measured in megawatts, shipped in 2011. Our estimated values are what manufacturers have paid in undepreciated dollars. Then, based on our interviews, we analyze the potential for each technology and forecast shipments for 2012 and 2017. We also analyze the cost of manufacturing the cells and modules and present an estimated value of shipments over the forecast period. We do the same analysis for key materials used in PV technology.

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