Preliminary estimates from GTM Research put global PV module sales for 2013 at about $30.5 billion.
To put things in perspective, that is slightly less than mobile semiconductor sales in 2012 ($31 billion) and about 7 percent of electronics contract revenues in 2013 ($415 billion). It’s a pretty impressive number, considering the breadth of the electronics industry, the burgeoning popularity of smartphones and the fact that solar is just beginning to gain mainstream acceptance.
It’s all the more impressive when you take into account the fact that PV module prices are less than half of what they were three years ago.
At their zenith in 2011, module revenues were as high as $47.5 billion, as falling prices in that year were offset by demand growth driven by Europe’s final feed-in-tariff hurrah. This was followed by a market contraction of $20 billion in 2012, with a relatively flat market unable to arrest the seemingly perpetual crash in module prices.
While 2013 saw a return to sales growth, it does seem that the market has experienced a reset, and that 2010-2011 represented a high-water mark that will take a lot to surpass in the near future. As shown in the chart below, GTM Research’s base-case module revenue forecast for 2014 is $35.7 billion, with an additional upside of $10 billion. This still leaves us somewhat short of the 2011 peak.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is perhaps wiser to use the growth curve of the recent past as a new normal for the module sales market rather than build expectations off of the heydays of exponential growth and outsized supplier margins.