Annual solar installations grew almost 20% year over year in 2017, and the solar industry is also edging within 100 gigawatts, a milestone the industry will reach this year, according to IHS Markit.
“Remarkable expansion has occurred against a backdrop of trade disputes and far-reaching policy changes on the one hand, and technology advances and cost improvements on the other,” says Edurne Zoco, research director, solar and energy storage at IHS Markit. “It’s clear that solar has become one of the most dynamic industries of our time, even as it continues to make a significant and growing contribution to the global supply of electricity.
“There are several important industry trends to watch in the coming months.”
“Solar Energy and Storage Trends”, a new white paper from IHS Markit, identifies the following eight significant trends with the most impact on the global solar market:
* Twenty countries will surpass 500 megawatts in annual solar installations — The number of significant solar photovoltaic markets has been growing steadily over the past 10 years, alongside an increasing volume of installations in new markets. Ultimately, how solar demand in 2018 unfolds will hinge on global module prices, steered by events in the top three markets, as well as by local policies and developer activity.
* Floating solar moves beyond niche applications — Floating solar photovoltaic systems are increasingly deployed on dams, reservoirs, lakes and other water bodies across the world. In 2018, the technology for these systems will move from niche applications to steady market uptake.
* Bifacial and half-cell technologies are the new rising module stars –Because bifacial technology enables power to be generated from both the front side and rear side of the panel, it can potentially generate 10% to 15% more electricity than standard modules, accompanied by only a limited increase in costs; while half-cell technology allows more cells to be placed into a module of a given size, increasing power output by 5 watts to 10 watts. For both technologies, the increased output from a single module will also contribute to system cost reductions on a per-watt basis.
* Diamond wire implemented for multicrystalline wafer cutting — The main cause of the resurgence of multicrystalline wafer cutting is the massive implementation of diamond wire sawing. The use of diamond wire saws for cutting multicrystalline wafers will reach significant penetration rates, with major manufacturers entering mass production in 2018.
* US and India trade policies impact module prices and procurement trends — Recent trade developments in the US and India, the second- and third-largest solar markets, are expected to have broad implications on manufacturing investment and expansion over the next few years in both local and international markets.
* PV inverter suppliers race to build new digital business models — Many suppliers are looking to create new business models, including the creation of a digital services platform that combines the core strength of suppliers in providing PV inverter hardware, with the addition of a software and cloud platform. This way, suppliers can work seamlessly with new partners in parallel industries, such as e-mobility, energy storage, lighting, heating and cooling.
* Utility-scale solar plus storage takes center stage — Intermittency is the inherent challenge with solar technology as a large-scale energy generator. The combination of solar and batteries has long been recognized as a solution to this problem, smoothing the variations in a plant’s output and storing electricity during the day, which enables the system to provide power into the evening.
* Electric vehicles pave the way for new synergies with stationary energy storage — The growth and future promise of electric vehicles has been a major factor in driving down the cost of batteries for energy storage, thanks to huge investments in battery technology and scale. EV growth will continue, but the various synergies between stationary energy storage and the reuse of “second-life” batteries from electric vehicles will also be increasingly explored.