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Bright future for solar cell market, says report

Posted: 25 Jun 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:booming solar energy market? solar cell investments? photovoltaic market?

Worldwide investments in the production of photovoltaic cells will rise to the same level as those for semiconductor manufacturing by 2010 due to booming demand for solar energy, according to iSuppli Corp.

Global production of photovoltaic cells will hit 12GW by 2010, up from 3.5GW in 2007. By 2010, as many as 400 production lines in the world that can produce at least 1MW of photovoltaic cells per year will be in place, representing a four-fold increase from about 90 to 100 production lines in 2007. Factories capable of 1GW of annual photovoltaic production also will be established to ensure continued delivery of photovoltaic cells to the market.

"The market for photovoltaic cells will grow by 40 percent annually until 2010, and 20 percent beyond," said Henning Wicht, senior director and principal analyst, MEMS and photovoltaics, for iSuppli. "Nearly all market participants plan to increase their sales by a CAGR of 40-50 percent during the next few years." Wicht noted that heavy investments would be required to finance the expansion of photovoltaic cell production. Each photovoltaic factory will require an investment of $500 million and more, will employ 1,000 workers per site, and will generate annual revenue of $1 billion or more, putting them into the size, cost and employment range of semiconductor fabs.

Cheaper PV cell
Growth of the photovoltaic market is currently driven by several factors, Wicht said. While the high price of oil and surging energy prices fuel demand for solar power in the short term, demand will be no less in the years to come. Projections show the world will need 3-4x more electrical power over the next 50 years to support continued growth in population and economic output. And by 2100, 80 percent of energy must be generated from renewable sources, according to the German Advisory Council On Global Change.

In a nod towards positive development, manufacturers affirmed that photovoltaic cell production will become cheaper in time. Solar cell makers Q-Cells AG and REC Group said they expect a reduction in photovoltaic system costs by 40 percent from 2006 to 2010.

With these cost reductions, many regions throughout the world will soon reach grid paritya point at which photovoltaic electricity costs the same or less than power derived from the electrical grid. Photovoltaic grid parity is expected beginning 2012 in nations where sunshine is plentiful and constant, and 2018 in areas with adequate or medium sun exposure.

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