Solar Trends to Watch in 2016 From GTM Research

Solar is expected to have an amazing year in 2016 by most accounts. As photovoltaic equipment continues to experience high demand prices will fall albeit at a slower rate than originally predicted. Meanwhile solar installations will grow in more markets while the U.S. installs more than 10 gigawatts of new solar power.

The projections come from GTM Research's most recent Solar Executive Briefing. "2016 is on track to be a milestone year for U.S. solar, with more than 10 GW added on annual basis for the first time ever and the number of homeowners with solar installed eclipsing the 1 million mark," according to GTM's Mike Munsell. "With the ITC extension, 10 gigawatts is not a one-time peak, but more likely a floor, with U.S. solar installations reaching 20 gigawatts per year by 2020," he wrote.

The briefing also anticipated that now that the federal government extended the ITC it's up to states to make policy changes. "Expect net-metering and rate-design reform debates to come at an accelerated rate as major state markets grapple with growing rooftop penetration levels," Munsell said.

This already is playing out in Nevada and other states where companies like SolarCity and Sunrun have recently ceased operations because of negative changes to policy. Speaking of leading installers, SolarCity will remain the largest installer but other companies could jockey for second to fifth-place positions. While the residential and utility-scale solar installations in the U.S. will see record growth, briefing anticipated that won't be the for commercial solar, which remains hampered by financing options. The bright part of this segment will likely be community solar projects.

Casting its gaze internationally, the briefing anticipated that Asian markets, particularly in southeastern and southern Asia will start to emerge as bigger solar markets. For instance, India now has more than 5 gigawatts of solar power online and it plans to add 2 more gigawatts of solar power between January and March 2016. Meanwhile some growth will continue in Latin America, particularly in Brazil and Mexico.

The photovoltaic manufacturing market is likely to stay balanced throughout 2016. "Overall global module supply and demand will be in balance, with slight under supply in the wafer value chain. However, according to GTM Research's PV Pulse, analysts expect continued investment in capacity as suppliers look to stay in line with an accelerating demand landscape over the next few years," Munsell said. Meanwhile component prices for photovoltaic modules will fall at a slower rate than previously projected.

To help reach further cost reductions, the balance-of-system component suppliers are expected to focus on delivering integrated modular PV systems. This has been prevalent in utility-scale systems. But now, "third-party hardware vendors are now partnering to create similar systems and proliferating similar concepts in residential and commercial markets," Munsell said.

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