New solar photovoltaic (PV) demand added during the first quarter of 2014 exceeded 9 gigawatts (GW), which was 35 percent more than the previous first-quarter record, set last year. In fact, every quarter in 2014 is forecast to reach new highs, with trailing 12-month demand at the end of Q1 2015 forecast to exceed 50 GW for the first time, according to findings in the latest NPD Solarbuzz Quarterly report.
The record level of demand achieved in the first quarter was driven by strong growth in Japan and the United Kingdom. These two countries combined accounted for more than one-third of global solar PV demand in Q1 2014 and set new quarterly records for PV deployed.
“The record demand added by the PV industry is the fifth straight year that a quarterly record has been set at the start of the year,” said Michael Barker, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “While demand during the first quarter typically sets the low point for the year, deployment levels during this quarter provide an excellent means of benchmarking demand for the rest of the coming year.”
Solar PV demand during the first quarter typically accounts for up to 20 percent of annual demand. In 2013, for example, Q1 demand of nearly 7 GW was followed by full-year demand above 37 GW. “Purely on a pro-rata basis, the first quarter of 2014 provides strong confidence that 2014 solar PV demand will indeed reach, and possibly even surpass, NPD Solarbuzz’s 2014 full-year forecast of 49 GW,” Barker noted.
With Q1 2014 now closed, the trailing 12-month demand suggests that the true size of the industry today is almost 40 GW. By the end of Q1 2015, the PV industry will likely break through the pivotal 50 GW barrier, bringing the industry much closer to rational supply and demand levels.
“During the past few years, the solar PV industry has been waiting for end-market demand to catch up with the excess manufacturing capacity added between 2010 and 2012,” added Finlay Colville, vice-president of NPD Solarbuzz. “This wait is now coming to an end. As annual demand approaches the 50 GW level, suppliers will finally be able to shift their focus from short-term tactical survival to long-term strategic planning.”