Electric avenue – PV, parity and the path to sustainable solar power


The global market for photovoltaic technology has been variously described as ‘emerging, exciting, risky, nascent, amazing, volatile, and evolving’ but there is no doubt that it is significant and growing very rapidly.

In 2010 PV solar energy has come of age with the critical number of successful trials and reference accounts achieved, solar module prices declining more rapidly than industry predictions, and cost parity with grid power expected in many locations, within a 2-5 year timeframe.

The total value of PV solar module production in 2009 was estimated at $19.6bn and forecasts suggest that this figure will be $125.5bn by 2016. Predictably, the manufacture of solar cells is dominated by Asian countries – with China and Japan producing 49% in 2009. The financial constraints affecting Western manufacturers during 2008/9 have exacerbated this trend and threatened the viability of many German producers who accounted for 21% of output in 2008.

Taiwan in particular has emerged as a strong challenger, wielding both technical expertise and cash to boost its global market share to 27% in 2010.

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