Solar Panel Industry’s Salad Days Of 2010

The solar revolution is gaining momentum, even if some governments are still seemingly ignorant of its potential and in some cases, now apparently actively seeking to rein it in. In 2010, 17.5 GW of solar panel installations occurred globally, blasting past the previous years 7.2 GW by an incredible 141%.

According to an excerpt from the May 2011 issue of PVNews, solar’s salad days of 2010 were powered by European feed-in tariffs, major component price drops and an abundance of polysilicon, wafers, cells, and solar panels thanks to the rapid expansion of production capacity. Cell and module capacity look set to increase up to 57% in 2011, with  manufacturers in China and Taiwan alone slated to add an additional 14 GW in cell production capacity this year.

Globally, PV cell and panel production racked up 23.9 GW and 20.0 GW output respectively in 2010, making for annual year-over-year growth of approximately 110%.

Crystalline silicon cell production in 2010 increased 128% over 2009; not including some 920 MW of  more exotic monocrystalline cell technology such as Sanyo’s HIT (heterojunction with intrinsic thin film layer) product.

Thin film solar was an exception to 2010’s massive growth rule – last year was the first time since 2005 the market share declined, from 17% in 2009 to 13% in 2010.

Among the top 15 solar module producers during last year were REC, Sanyo and Hanwha SolarOne (previously Solarfun). The number 1 solar panel manufacturer was Suntech; having produced 1,558 megawatts of modules during 2010.

The PVNews report says 2011 and 2012 could be much more challenging years, with solar feed in tariffs being reined in throughout all key markets driven by these initiatives, however it warns the PV industry’s proven resilience when faced with adversity could see any doom-and-gloom prophecies proven incorrect.

Whatever the future holds, 2010 will be long remembered as the year that PV based solar power emerged from the fringes of electricity production and went mainstream.