2009 PV Module Market – Installations and Shipments Up, Revenues Down

IMS+Forecasts 2009 PV Module Market – Installations and Shipments Up, Revenues Down

Contrary to many announcements byanalysts so far, IMS Research estimates that in 2009, the PV market –in terms of both new installations and shipments of PV modules andinverters — grew substantially.

The latest results from our recently published report ‘The World Marketfor PV Cells and Modules’ reveal that PV module shipments grewconsiderably once again in 2009 – by over 25%, to more than 8GW.However, IMS Research’s ongoing surveying of integrators and installersand analysis of grid-connection statistics also revealed that newinstallations grew by a much more modest 5-10%, but exceeding 6GW forthe first time.

Like many others, following Q1 and Q2’s disastrous results, IMSResearch had in fact expected 2009’s shipments to decline. However,following unprecedented growth in Q3 and Q4 and having collected andanalysed data from all areas of the supply chain, results show thatmodule shipments grew by over 25%.

While many may understandably be excited and encouraged by the newsthat shipments did in fact grow, market revenue growth tells a verydifferent story. The collapse of the Spanish market, combined with adifficult economic climate, caused a significant drop in demand andprices plummeted by 40% as a result. Average prices were also drivendown further by thin-film modules continuing to account for anincreasing proportion of shipments. Consequentially, PV module revenuesdeclined by over 20% in 2009.

The number of PV systems that were actually completed and connected tothe grid in 2009 tells yet another story. Official statistics andgovernment numbers are still being finalised and it will be some monthsbefore a final figure is arrived at.

However, IMS Research estimates that annual PV installations grew by 5% to 10%.

Installations in Europe were realised particularly quickly in thesecond half of the year. Germany led the way, installing around 3GW ofnew PV capacity. Italy did not disappoint either, although it will besome time before the GSE discloses a final figure for the year.

We understand that some 100MW of systems were completed before the endof the year in Italy, but not connected to the grid due toadministration issues and the total for Italy will be closer to 480MW.

With 2009 PV module shipments growing far beyond expectation andinstallations growing less spectacularly, the natural question to askis where all of these modules have gone?

We are seeing delays of two quarters between a module being shipped andit finally being connected to the grid and therefore being counted asan ‘installation’ in official figures – perhaps longer in very largeinstallations.

In addition, we’ve seen that a significant proportion of PV moduleswere shipped in Q4 in anticipation of an unseasonably strong Germanmarket in the first half of 2010. This is likely to have been caused byintense speculation of a cut to the German tariff in July, reversingthe country’s normal seasonality.

Early results show that the big winner in 2009 was First Solar, withshipments of its cadmium telluride modules more than doubling over2008. As a result, thin film modules are estimated to have increasedtheir share of the market further and accounted for 20% of shipments in2009.

Another unlikely winner is Q-Cells International which IMS Researchexpects to shortly reveal as the largest PV system integrator in 2009once it finalizes its research this month.

As for the PV market in 2010 as a whole, IMS Research forecasts thatshipments will once again grow, not as fast as installations though asthey continue to catch up with the surge in module shipments in 2009.With many expecting a drop in demand in the second half of the year,further falls in module prices are predicted.

Which begs the more important question, can the market grow in revenue terms this year too?

This blog was provided by Ash Sharma, renewable energy researchdirector, and Sam Wilkinson, Renewable Energy Research Analyst, at IMSResearch: