SAN FRANCISCOAfter years of double-digit growth, the modern incarnation of the solar industry has run into its first major market cycle, but remains well positioned for long-term success, according to report by Gartner Inc.
Photovoltaic (PV) solar cell revenue in 2009 will decrease 1 percent from $16 billion in 2008, due to short-term average selling price declines, according to Gartner. But the market research firm expects PV revenue to grow at a compound annual rate of 17 percent from 2008 to 2013, when it is expected to reach $34 billion.
Worldwide demand for "green" energy sources is growing at the same time that PV module prices are shrinking thanks to improved manufacturing technologies and less-expensive raw materials, Gartner said. But solar energy will serve only a fraction of a percent of worldwide energy consumption by 2013, leaving room for substantial growth in the PV market beyond the forecast horizon, according to Gartner.
In the near term, limited credit, jittery customers and currency fluctuations have hit the PV vendors severely, Gartner said. But on a gigawatt (GW) basis, Gartner predicts that the overall PV market will grow 24 percent in 2009, reaching 6.4 GW. The firm forecasts that the PV market growth to reach 23.4 GW by 2013.
Gartner said PV solar is well-positioned to capitalize on a long-term trend of clean energy technology is figuring prominently in the future growth of the major industrialized economies. Continued government support of solar energy appears likely, an important point because solar energy remains dependent on subsidies to be cost-competitive with conventional forms of electric power generation, Gartner said.
As policy support continues to spur demand, the large-scale industrialization of PV manufacturing will take place, which will drive down costs to the point at which PV-generated electricity is economically viable without external support, Gartner predicted.
Gartner forecast that crystalline silicon will remain the dominant PV technology during the next five years, despite rapid growth in thin-film PV sales.
Gartner (Stamford, Conn.) recently issued its first forecast of the PV solar cell market. The report summarizes Gartner's outlook for the PV solar cell market during the next five years and identifies the major drivers and inhibitors influencing the forecast.