2012 ends German PV dominance?
The official figures are not in yet, but it looks ike Germany will once again have slightly installed more PV in 2012 than ever before. But the estimates for 2013 are more modest, though the country is likely to remain ahead of its official target of around three gigawatts.
Last month, iSuppli published its 10 solar market predictions for 2013, one of which was that China would become the largest market in the world by installing more than six gigawatts – which implicitly means that the market researchers believe that Germany will fall from its current level of around 7.5 gigawatts per year, which it has maintained since 2010, to below six gigawatts.
Now, a spokesperson for the German Environmental Ministry has told Photon magazine that "only" 3.5 to 4.5 gigawatts of new capacity is expected to be installed this year. While that outcome would indeed potentially mean that the market shrinks to half of its current size, the German government currently has a target of 2.5 to 3.5 gigawatts per year, so the market would still be growing faster than the government would like.
Last week, the German Network Agency announced that more than 435 megawatts had been installed in November, bringing the total for 2012 up to 7.27 gigawatts. The figures for December are not in yet, but unofficial preliminary estimates put the figure for December at around 360 megawatts, which would put the total for the year at 7.63 gigawatts.
One factor that is likely to slow down the market is the limit on system size for feed-in tariff eligibility. Arrays larger than 10 megawatts can no longer simply sell power to the grid, but must instead find a buyer – and freely negotiate prices. Such arrays still have to be registered with the Network Agency, however, so they would still be tallied, but in November no such systems were installed. November was the first month in which such systems were no longer eligible.
The German government wants to fundamentally change its policy for solar once 52 gigawatts has been installed – the official target for 2020, but one that will more likely be reached in 2016 even if the market shrinks to around four gigawatts per year.
Germany currently has 32,400 megawatts of PV connected to the grid, equivalent to roughly half of peak summer power demand. In comparison, the United States would need around 350,000 megawatts of PV to have the same level of grid penetration. (Craig Morris)