Chinese solar footprint could mushroom, says report

Oct. 12, 2009
Demand for solar panels inside of China could explode over the next three years

According to a new report from GTM Research, the market research arm of Greentech Media, demand for solar panels inside of China could explode over the next three years. China has a cumulative installed base of 140 MW of PV. By 2012, the report forecasts growth reaching 1.4 GW to 2.6 GW, driven by new state policies like the Golden Sun program that can cover 50 to 70% of the cost of solar systems, according to two authors, China-based Matt Miller and Matthiah Larkin.

During the same period, the full price of a solar system installed will drop from $2.82 in 2009 to $2.18, lower than in the U.S. or Europe because of lower prices for labor, inverters and other factors. In the West, panels sell for approximately $2/W. In China, a panel now sells for $1.57/W.

By 2020, the cumulative installed PV base could grow to 10 GW. As early as 2007 Chinese industry officials had aimed for 300 MW by 2012 and 1.8 gigawatts by 2020.

The shift to solar could help deflect criticism internationally and more importantly de-escalate ongoing conflicts over coal mining and pollution in various provinces, but the main driver in the shift to solar is a concern over jobs. The country exports more than 95% of its solar panels. The global recession, however, has stoked fears that demand from Spain, Germany and the U.S. could drop.

During the same period, the solar manufacturing footprint will grow from 5.6 GW of capacity in 2009 to 8.1 GW in 2012. In 2005, China had a production capacity of 400 MW and a cumulative installed base of 70 MW.

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