Phoenix, AZ--Travis Bradford, Founder, President, and Director of the Prometheus Institute for Sustainable Development, has been with Greentech Media as an advisor and analyst since our inception. He has been providing insight on the solar PV market for more than five years. (Travis is also the COO and CFO of the Carbon War Room.)
"Anyone in this industry has experienced a whirlwind in the last five years," said Bradford in his keynote address at the 2010 Solar Summit sponsored by Greentech Media. He added, "We used to be blown away by 5 megawatt installations and now we're seeing 60 megawatts. His outlook for the industry is bullish.
Prices fall, volumes rise
According to Bradford, "Generally prices fall 5 or 6 percent per annum," in a global solar market with growth rates of 30% per year. And soon we will be in double digit gigawatt global production in a world market of $35 to $40 billion. In Q2 of 2010, 4 gigawatts of PV modules will be produced, according to Solar Buzz.
"That growth trend will continue," he predicted.
Many of 2010's leading companies in the PV module market were unheard of in 2005. Q-Cells was nowhere to be seen in 2005; Sharp was the industry leader. In five short years Sharp lost its lead and Q-Cells was ascendant. Now First Solar is the global leader, and Q-Cells is suffering from overexpansion and margin compression.
Not too long ago, in Travis' telling, First Solar was a small company with a small line trying to get its modules not to delaminate. Now it's the largest manufacturer in the world with a technology that had been written off in the past.
It would make sense to say that the PV leader in 2015 might not be amongst today's top ten manufacturers.
Grid Parity and What's to Come
Utility ownership is taking hold and there's a ton of projects in the pipeline. Growth in the PPA model is driving the U.S. solar renaissance.
Today, according to work at NREL and analysis by Bradford, PV is already at grid parity--when subsidies are added in--in high-population regions of the U.S., such as California, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. But the grid parity situation is only going to improve in the next few years. Assuming no enormous structural shifts like a loss of the ITC or interconnection standard and a 0.5 percent or 1 percent increase in electricity pricing, grid parity could potentially soon spread to half of the utility users in the U.S. Is counting subsidies fair? Since it doesn't look like they will be eliminated, yes, argues Bradford.
"We predict in a few years the U.S. will be the largest market in the world," he added.