BOSTON — The solar photovoltaic (PV) market is poised to rise from its 2011 manufacturing crisis to grow to $155 billion in 2018, as market forces engineer a turnaround to a healthy 10.5 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), according to Lux Research. In the most likely scenario, the PV market will grow at a modest clip to 35 GW in 2013 before rapidly ramping up to 61.7 GW in 2018.

“Manufacturers’ nightmare is turning into a long-term boon for the industry. Record low prices pushed gross margins to near zero or below, but they’ve made solar installations competitive in more markets,” said Ed Cahill, Lux Research associate and the lead author of the report, “Market Size Update 2013: Return to Equilibrium.”

“Supply and demand will come back into balance in 2015, easing price pressure, returning manufacturers to profitability, and restoring the industry to equilibrium,” he noted.

Lux Research analysts used a detailed levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analysis in 156 separate geographies, accounting for 82 percent of the world’s population, to determine the viability and competitiveness of solar in each market. Among the findings:

The United States, China, Japan, and India will take over where Germany and Italy left off. With an 18 percent CAGR to 10.8 GW of installations in 2018, the United States will emerge as the world’s second-largest market. But China will leapfrog it, growing over 15 percent annually to 12.4 GW in 2018.

Utility-scale installations to grow the fastest; commercial the largest. Utility-scale solar, the smallest segment in 2012 at 8.6 GW, will grow the fastest to 19.9 GW in 2018 as developing markets turn to PV. Globally, commercial applications lead the way as markets like the U.S. and Japan move to large rooftop installations.

Opportunities abound for cheap IP. Struggling start-ups present opportunities to acquire intellectual property at record low prices. A case in point: Hanergy acquired Miasolé — which in 2012 announced the leading CIGS module efficiency at 15.5 percent — for only $30 million after investors had pumped $500 million into the firm.

Publication date: 6/17/2013

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