Upon the release of the European Commission Joint Research Centre’s 2010 “PV Status Report,” we reported that the European Union leads the world in installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity, with about 70 percent of the world total. That holds, with the EU still atop the list this year, and still around 70 percent of the total with 29 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity. But the real story is the extraodinary growth in PV production across the globe. After surveying more than 300 companies in the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan and the United States, the center found production more than doubled in 2010 compared to 2009.
The report estimated total world PV production in 2010 at 23.5 GW. This represents more than 500 times 1990 levels, and makes PV one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, the report said. With the surge in production, the report said, the price of solar modules has fallen by almost half over the last three years. Business analysts predict that investments in PV technology could double by 2015, while prices for consumers are expected to continue to decrease.
The report also documented a dramatic shift occurring in the industry’s manufacturing sector in recent years. China has become the undisputed leader in manufacturing center for solar cells and modules, followed by Taiwan, Germany and Japan. Among the 20 largest PV manufacturers in 2010, only four had production plants in Europe.
Further cost reductions will depend not only on technology improvements that lead to streamlining solar cell and module production, but also on the ability to decrease the costs of system components, as well as the design, operation, permitting and financing costs of PV systems. The entire 2011 PV Status Report can be found here.