A new study from Lux Research suggests that while 2012 will be a dismal year for the solar industry the following three will see significant growth.
After the world installed 26.5 gigawatts of solar in 2011, this year’s 0.4 gigawatts will seem like nothing and industry revenues will drop $110 billion to a paltry $92 billion.
But there is a silver lining, said research analyst Matt Feinstein.
“We think demand will rise and will continue to grow,” he said. “The short of it is that a few very important European markets are going to decline, but a whole bunch of smaller markets are going to be ramping up.”
Lux forecasts that the world will install 38.3 gigawatts of solar power in 2017.
The lull in 2012 is the result of the market shifting gears, he said.
“We’re really seeing the change right now,” he said.
Most of the growth will be in smaller Asian markets, he said. But there is also significant activity in other emerging markets, like Brazil, where countries are taking legislative action today that will get the ball rolling in the next few years.
“I really think 2013 to 2015 is the window,” Feinstein said. “That’s when those Asian countries and up-and-coming markets – and there are a ton of them – are really going to ramp up.”
The United States will also have a place in solar industry growth, Feinstein said. “The states will be important, especially for financing,” he said. “But the real volume is going to be in those Asian markets.”
The report also notes that utility-scale development will grow.
And there is a chance that the same oversupply that plagues the market today and cuts into profit margins will persist as the market grows and new manufacturers clamor for their piece of the pie.
China’s five-year plan calls for a major expansion in solar capacity, which will continue to apply downward pressure on panel prices, according to the report.
Even with that, Feinstein said the coming years could be solar’s glory days.
“I think 2013 to 2015 could be a really optimistic time for the solar industry,” he said.