The global solar industry may have hit the doldrums, but it could double again to a $155 billion business by 2018, according to Lux Research. The reason? As the Chinese manufacturers that supply most of the world’s solar panels struggle to avoid bankruptcy after expanding too fast, developers will use the resulting plunge in solar-panel prices to expand into new markets. That will soak up China’s excess capacity; so too will industry consolidation, as troubled manufacturers like Suntech and smaller companies go broke or are bought up.
“Manufacturers’ nightmare is actually a boon for the industry in the long term,” wrote Lux Research analyst Ed Cahill in a report out today. “As demand rises and capacity falls, overcapacity will drop to 12% in 2015, allowing manufacturers to raise margins and return to profitability.”
Basing its projections on an analysis of energy prices in 156 markets, Lux predicts that annual solar installations will hit 62,000 megawatts (MW) in 2018, double the figure last year. In the US, Lux expects a solar building boom over the next few years as developers rush to get their projects in before a tax credit for photovoltaic systems falls from 30% to 10% at the end of 2016. The US should install 10,800 MW of solar in 2018, making it the world’s second largest solar market. But the real action will be in Asia, where Lux projects 30,300 MW will be installed by China, India and Japan.