Say What? Growth of Solar Panel Installations to Match Growth of Apple $AAPL

I’ll be the first to admit it: solar panels aren’t as cool as theiPad. I mean, at the end of the day, all they do is turn sunlight intoclean energy, right? The iPad, meanwhile, can do just about everythingshort of raising your children. (To be fair, I think they’re working onan app for that.)

But just because solar panels aren’t as cool as the iPad doesn’t mean they’re insignificant.

Case in point: new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Financesuggests that solar-panel installations may grow by more than 50 percent in 2011, a rate that would match Apple’s sales growth after theCupertino, Calif.-based company launched the iPad in 2010.

According to the analysis, homeowners and project developers may install as many as 28 gigawatts(GW) of new solar generating capacity worldwide — roughly equal to 25nuclear power plants. The projections for 2011 are:

almost equal to the generating capacity of thecombined nuclear-reactor fleets of Germany and China, which took decades to build.

Germany, the biggest market for solar panels, will hold its No. 1ranking this year, installing at least 6 gigawatts of panels, followedby Italy with at least 4.5 gigawatts, New Energy Finance estimated. TheU.S. will see about 1.6 gigawatts plugged in.

Much of this growth will be due to continually falling prices forsolar power. Jenny Chase, lead solar analyst at New Energy Finance,suggests the price of solar panels is likely to fall to $1.50 per wattin the second half of 2011, compared to around $1.80 in 2010.

>> Learn how solar panels are priced

This price should translate to a fully installed cost of $5.00 perwatt, the analysis suggests. While I think this price target may be abit aggressive, Chase’s overall thesis — that falling solar panel prices will continue to boost demand — is clearly sound. Heck, U.S. solarphotovoltaic (PV) installation grew over 100 percent last year. With falling solar prices and heightened sensitivity to the risksassociated with nuclear power, who’s to say the global growth of solarPV installation rate won’t top Apple?

Photo cred: bfishadow.

Pace of Solar Panel Installations to Match Apple’s Sales Growth

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