The UK recently surpassed 5 GW in cumulative solar PV installations, making it just the sixth country to hit this level globally.
However, with strong growth forecasted in the worldwide PV industry over the five-year forecast period to 2018, 5 GW of installed capacity will become less meaningful as other countries begin to pass 10 GW, 50 GW, and even 100 GW of cumulative market size.
According to the latest NPD Solarbuzz demand forecasts, by the end of 2018 there will be at least nine countries that will have cumulative installed solar PV capacity levels above 5 GW. Under current growth estimates China will surpass 100 GW of installed solar PV capacity, accounting for over 20% of total global solar PV installations.
The largest percentage of installed capacity globally will be located in the 50-100 GW cumulative capacity range, made up by just Japan and the USA.
This level of downstream consolidation indicates that the majority of solar PV demand is still being driven by only a handful of markets. However, at least 29 single-country markets are forecast to have at least 1 GW of installed PV capacity by 2018, and over 150 countries will have sub-1 GW markets .
This indicates that there is still considerable room for development for PV globally. The primary focus for the PV industry now should be on continued cost declines to make solar more competitive against conventional energy and other renewable energy sources.
Only by making PV more competitive on a cost per kilowatt hour basis can the industry grow the overall market size and create more opportunities for upstream component suppliers, downstream project developers, and end-customers.
Cumulative Installed PV Capacity by Market Size, 2018
Adapted from NPD Solarbuzz Quarterly, June 2014