A recent report from the European Union’s Joint Research Center Institute for Energy shows continued massive increases in the annual growth rate of global solar cell production.
Growth in production averaged 40% over five years ; peaking at 60% in 2007 when solar cell production reached 4 GWp. The solar panel sector has become an AUD $28.5 billion a year business and is expect to grow to AUD $85.5 billion in 2010, while still seeing price drops on solar panels for end consumers.
Sharp Corporation is now the number one solar cell manufacturer followed by Q-cells and Suntech. The market share of the ten largest solar cell manufacturers has eroded from 80% in 2004 to 57% in 2007 due to an increasing number of companies entering the solar cell production market, predominantly in China and Taiwan.
Since 2003, the thin film solar panel production segment grew in average by over 80% and reached 400 MW or 10% of total solar cell production in 2007. The agency believes that a thin film market share of 25 to 30% in 2010 is possible.
According to the report, current global electricity generation from solar power systems is around 10 billion kilowatt hours, with half of that capacity coming from the European Union. While solar power derived electricity still only accounts for a tiny 0.2% of total electricity consumption in Europe, at current levels it still represents 4 million fewer tonnes of carbon dioxide being released each year compared to equivalent coal fired power generation.
Germany remains the largest single solar market with 1,100 megawatts, followed by Spain with 341 megawatts, Japan with 210 megawatts and the US with 205 megawatts.
Based on current trends, the JRC projects that over 15 terawatt hours (15 billion kilowatt hours) of electricity will be generated by solar power systems around the world in 2010, a 50% increase from 2007. The EU JRC also predicts that by 2012 China will achieve 27% of worldwide solar cell production capacity (nearly 43 gigawatts), followed by Europe with 23%, Japan with 17% and Taiwan with 14%.
The full 142 page JRC 2008 PV Status Report can be downloaded here (PDF)