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Solar panel market to face slowdown in '09

Posted: 23 Mar 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar panel? market solar? alternative energy?

Sales of solar energy panels amounted to 5.6GW in 2008, up 48 percent on 2007, but the global economic crisis will result in newly installed solar capacity reaching only 7.1GW in 2009, equivalent to a global growth rate of 26 percent, before the strong growth resumes in 2010.

This is according to market research firm The Information Network, which added that production of those panels is predominantly done in Asia. In 2008, 3.3GW or 60 percent was produced in Asia, 1.5GW produced in Europe and just 750MW produced in the United States.

However, while production has grown the downturn has affected the take up of alternative energy and manufacturing capacity utilization is below 50 percent, and similar to the semiconductor-for-IT industry.

Similarly polysilicon, which was in shortage for many years, is now in oversupply pushing prices of crystalline wafers below $5 which is impacting sales of much lower efficiency amorphous silicon panels.

The solar panel market is expected to pick up again in 2010, growing 48 percent to 10.5GW of newly installed photovoltaic systems. The thin-film sector, which includes amorphous silicon, CdTe and CIGS, will represent less than 20 percent of the market in 2010. Plagued by low optical conversion efficiencies, in the region of 7 to 12 percent, this sector is still compensated by low manufacturing costs, the research firm said.

Robert Castellano, president of the Information Network, called for the U.S. government to stimulate the formation of solar energy manufacturing jobs in the United States.

"While the use of renewable energy is lauded, what's worse, buying solar panels from Europe and Asia or oil from OPEC?" he asked in a statement. "The Obama energy stimulus package must include ways to generate jobs here in the U.S. The alternative energy program in the U.S. needs an Energy Czar to enable job production, and I volunteer my services."

- Peter Clarke
EE Times Europe

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