Thanks largely to hefty government support, Germany's solar market has become the largest in the world. Germany has installed half the world's solar power every year since 2007, adding 8.8 gigawatts in 2010 alone. The trend is expected to continue in 2011, with German installations providing nearly half the world's 20 new gigawatts, according to data provided by research and analysis firm iSuppli Corp. and confirmed by other analysts.
But things could get shaky in 2012. Revisions to the country's Renewable Energy Sources Act are due in mid-2011. If the powers that be decide to cut "feed-in" tariffs—which encourage homeowners to add their unused alternative energy to the grid—it will put the brakes on Germany's solar surge.
New photovoltaic output is projected to continue growing globally over the next five years, as other key markets offset the relative decline in Germany. Leading the pack will be Italy and the United States. The U.S. market alone will rise almost tenfold, from less than half a gigawatt in 2009 to more than 4 GW in 2014, according to iSuppli. Japan will lead a fivefold increase in Asia. The European Photovoltaic Industry Association also foresees fresh demand from markets such as Canada, China, Greece, India, and the United Kingdom. According to Solarbuzz's 2010 industry report, "even in the slowest growth scenario, the global market will be 2.5 times its current size by 2014."
About the Author
PRACHI PATEL is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum and a freelance journalist based in Pittsburgh, Penn. In October, she wrote about job prospects in the renewable energy field.