Lower Prices for U.S. Solar in 2010?

The trouble with reading any analyses, reports or simple statementsfrom industry experts is how difficult it can be to sift through themass of material.

Differentiating sound judgment from pure noise, orattempts at manipulation from a desire to present balancedviewpoints—these are the challenges that face anyone with an interestin a burgeoning field, especially one as (relatively) new as solar.

But Roger Efird, Suntech Power Holdings’ managing director forbusiness development in the United States, may be onto something whenhe predicted yesterday that planned cuts to Germany’s solar incentivesmay incite solar manufacturers to ship their excess products to theU.S., thus forcing stateside prices for solar equipment downward. Asthe world’s top market for photovoltaic solar systems—it representsabout 50% of the global market—Germany has long served as a bellwetherand beacon of hope for the solar industry. And so, with the Germangovernment ready to implement a 15% cut on prices paid for roof-mountedsolar power systems starting April 1, some panels bound for Germanywill surely end up across the Atlantic.

From Reuters:

Solar companies have struggled in the past year as aglut of supplies pressured module prices by about 40 percent, squeezingprofit margins in the nascent industry, and the additional suppliesthat had been destined for Germany will push U.S. prices even lower.

Efird foresees anywhere from a 10% to a 15% decline in price, notonly from the excess of solar product but also increased numbers ofmanufacturers, who might have sold in Germany before but who aresetting their eyes on a market with more potential. It’s an issue withoverall supply.

“Anything that happens in Germany has a ripple effect,” [Efird] told the RETECH energy conference.

Such an outlook, of course, is excellent news for U.S. consumers andanathema to manufacturers everywhere, although it is possible thatincreased sales of solar systems—triggered by their lower prices—mayinsulate somewhat against the potential losses of the drop in price.(Like Wal-Mart, but on a much smaller scale: dirt-cheap prices, hugequantities of sold product, large revenues.) Thoughts on whether or notthis will come to pass?

Lower Prices for U.S. Solar in 2010?


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