Italy set to surpass Germany as world’s leading solar market this year

After two years at the top, in 2011 Germany is likely to lose its place as the world’s top photovoltaic (PV) solar market, slipping to No. 2 behind former runner-up Italy, according to an IHS iSuppli PV Market Brief report. PV solar system installations in Germany during 2011 are expected to decline to 5.9 gigawatts (GW), down 20% from 7.4 GW in 2010. Meanwhile, Italy in 2011 is set to install up to 6.9 GW worth of PV systems, nearly double the 3.6 GW from 2010.Propelled by residential and institutional investors who support green initiatives as well as sustainable funding, Germany has been the world’s leading country for PV installations since 2009. However, installations in the country stalled in H1-2011. And while the market recovered in the second half, the increase was insufficient to generate growth for the whole year. Meanwhile, the Italian government’s attractive incentives boosted the country’s installations massively, giving it the top position worldwide. New PV solar installations in Germany in H1-2011 amounted to only 1.7 GW—less than a third of total for the entire year. High PV module prices early in the year caused buyers to hold off purchases until costs moderated. However, figures from the German Grid Agency reported installations of 2.3 GW from June to September, exceeding the original IHS estimate of 2.2 GW. A mini boom also materialized in Germany in October, November and December because of reduced system prices and changes of tariffs expected in January 2012. Meanwhile, Italy this year added more solar capacity than any other country thanks to attractive tariffs and changing subsidy schemes from the government in Rome. After a modest second quarter, installations in Italy are estimated to have reached a far-more robust 2 GW in the third and fourth quarters, helping that country jump to the top of the PV market this year. The United States came in third place, with 2.7 GW worth of installations in 2011; China in fourth, with 1.7 GW; Japan in fifth with 1.3 GW and France in sixth with approximately 1.0 GW of new installations. In all, new global installations this year will reach 23.8 GW, up a robust 34% from 17.7 GW in 2010. Worldwide demand also is expected to pick up by April 2012, driven by demand in Europe as well as by supportive local programs coming online in China and the emergence of new markets such as India. A healthier business environment for the PV industry could well emerge by the end of the first half of 2012—but only if demand returns as a reaction to the low system prices on the market.
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