SOURCE: Freedonia Group, Inc.

January 25, 2007 10:10 ET

Demand for Solar Energy Products Expected to Reach $1.3 Billion in 2010

CLEVELAND, OH -- (MARKET WIRE) -- January 25, 2007 -- Demand for photovoltaic modules is expected to more than triple from 2005 levels by 2010 to 531 megawatts, valued at $1.3 billion. Advances will be driven by the falling price of solar power, which stems from technological innovations, growing economies of scale and a rising level of government tax incentives and rebates at both the state and federal levels. However, if these incentives are scaled back or withdrawn prematurely, it would negatively affect solar energy product demand. These and other trends are presented in "Solar Energy Products," a new study from The Freedonia Group, Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.

Gains will also be spurred by consumer interest in renewable energy sources and concern about the volatility of oil and other conventional energy prices and supplies. The widespread implementation of net metering programs will also drive growth, as consumers are compensated at retail prices for any excess energy generated that flows onto the grid. In the near term, advances will be slowed by a shortage of polysilicon. This trend is slowing price declines and limiting the ability of manufacturers to produce enough cells to accommodate demand. However, this shortage is likely to fade by 2010 as silicon producers complete planned expansions and as newer photovoltaic technologies that use little or no silicon become more widely used.

In 2005, U.S. shipments of photovoltaic cells were dominated by crystalline silicon cells which accounted for 76 percent of shipments in terms of generation capacity. However, thin films (e.g., amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, gallium arsenide, and copper indium diselenide or copper indium gallium diselenide) will post stronger growth, advancing to more than eleven times their 2005 level by 2010 as more manufacturers begin large-scale production. Gains will be driven by the cost advantages involved in using little or no silicon, and the ability to use thin films in building integrated photovoltaic applications within roofing shingles and other building materials.

In 2005, the key market for photovoltaic modules (which are composed of a series of cells) was power generation, accounting for 85 percent of demand. The on-grid segment represented the largest share of demand, benefiting from net metering programs implemented by state governments and local utilities, and a system which does not require batteries and supplemental generators.

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