The rate of photovoltaic installations in Germany has continued at a faster than ever pace during the first two quarters of 2010. Far from slowing down after the record 4th quarter in 2009, installation of solar panels accelerated through the new year. Accurate projections are hard to make, but there are suggestions that the market volume in the first half of this year could be 4 gigawatts. This is likely to make 2010 another record year for Solar. This demand has been fuelled by the discussions surrounding the reduction in the feed-in tariff in Germany, which has now finally been decided. At the recent Photon PV Technology Show in Stuttgart, there was much discussion surrounding how the PV market would continue to grow despite the feed-in tariff reduction. Many were optimistic that the market may be unaffected the changes.

The scale of activity means that Germany’s dominance of the world solar market remains. In 2009, over 60% of the world’s solar panels were installed in Germany and it is likely that this trend will continue in 2010. This is having a big impact on markets in the rest of Europe. There is currently an extreme shortage of inverters for commercial and domestic rooftop installations and there are also reports of shortages of solar panels from the leading manufacturers.

This shortage is being felt across the UK PV industry. As demand in the UK steadily grows, installers are finding it more challenging to source the right products in a short time period. Many installations are being carried out without an inverter, meaning that customers are forced to wait several weeks for the inverter to arrive and they can start collecting the feed-in tariff. If you are considering getting a PV system for your home then make sure to ask your installer about their lead time for products.

Fortunately there should be an end to this shortage. The inverter manufacturers have been working very hard to increase manufacturing capacity, and some of that new capacity should be coming on-line later in the year. After the feed-in tariff change in Germany in July demand is expected to reduce to some extent which should free-up availability for the rest of Europe. SMA, the world’s leading manufacturer of inverters with a market share of close to 40% are expected to resolve their supply issues by the end of the summer, meaning that their highly sought after small inverters, the SunnyBoy series, become significantly easier to come by.

This will be important for the UK. Prices of PV systems in the UK are still significantly higher than in the rest of Europe. The shortages prevent new wholesale distributors from entering the market and keep costs high. As the market becomes less supply constrained we expect that the industry will become more competitive, allowing an advancement in price reduction. With the great feed-in tariff we have now, any cost reductions mean better returns for the customer, and will hopefully motivate more people in the UK to ‘go solar.’

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