U.S. photovoltaic installations will be higher than expected by year-end as the acceleration of key projects pushes up total solar capacity for the country, according to an IHS Solar PV North America tracker from information and analytics provider IHS.
Total PV installation capacity in 2012 is projected to reach 3.4 gigawatts (GW), up a significant 79 percent from 1.9GW in 2011. The market will see another robust 32 percent increase next year when solar installation capacity reaches 4.5GW, on its way to some 5.4GW by 2016.
The updated 2012 figure shows the fourth quarter this year will have the greatest amount of installed capacity, estimated at more than 1GW. PV demand for the American market in 2012 has been ramping up since the first half of the year, when installation stood at 1.4GW.
The adjusted annual forecast takes into account new impetus in the U.S. market for renewable solar energy. Earlier projections had shown a slightly lower total for 2012, at 3.1GW. Overall, approximately 63,000 solar installations will have been completed by the time the year is over, up from 48,000 installations in 2011.
Among the key projects giving the U.S. solar market a new boost are those from Arizona-based First Solar, with 200 out of 290 megawatts from the Agua Caliente project now having been installed. Expediting Agua Caliente came as First Solar looked to thin out its inventory build at manufacturing facilities in Germany and Malaysia, which have been affected by diminishing incentives for large projects in Germany.
California will remain the leader of renewable solar power in the country, accounting this year for an estimated 1.3GW—more than a third of the U.S. total for 2012. The state’s premier position has stayed unchanged despite declining PV activity, which saw 60 percent of 47 solar-related manufacturing operations either halting or slowing production.
Nonetheless, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power—the largest municipal utility in the country—is currently developing a feed-in tariff incentive program to proactively encourage the continued development of both residential and commercial solar systems in Southern California. In early August, for instance, the LADWP reactivated non-residential PV rebates with $28 million in new funding.
Arizona, third last year in PV installation output, will rise to second place in 2012 on the strength of 586MW in capacity. Current in-state programs continue to provide strong support for solar projects, and consumption of electricity through 2030 is forecast to grow faster than the 0.8 percent national average—solidifying the base case for a viable renewable energy program.
Last year’s No. 2 state, New Jersey, is down to third spot this year with a projected 330MW in solar installations. Despite the fall in ranking, the tiny state is ahead in PV power of geographically much larger rivals, including Nevada and Texas, ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. The rest of the Top 10 for the year includes Pennsylvania, Florida, New Mexico, Colorado and New York.
In Ontario, Canada, where a sizable market exists besides the United States in the overall North America PV space, an export-oriented focus in 2010 has now shifted to a supply base that serves the local populace alone. PV capacity in the Canadian province will remain stable at an estimated 500MW per year, and a review at the end of 2013 will determine if its renewable-capacity target has to be raised.
US-China Trade Tariff Update
On October 10, the Department of Commerce announced its final determination in the antidumping duty investigation relating to the import of crystalline silicon PV cells from China.
As Suntech Power and Trina Solar were the mandatory respondents, they received unique tariff rates based on the DOC findings—a 35.97 percent tariff for Suntech, and a smaller 23.75 percent tariff for Trina, as shown in Table 1. All other companies singled out in the investigation received a rate that was the average between the two main respondents—a rate that corresponded to 30.66 percent. Meanwhile, Chinese companies not singled out in the investigation will receive a substantial 254.66 percent duty—much higher because the DOC wished to deter Chinese entities from forming new companies or joint ventures, or because companies did not disclose financial records when requested.
While the duties are still preliminary in nature and will need to be finalized by the International Trade Commission’s final determination on November 23, it is important to note that they will be enacted retroactively 90 days prior to the preliminary decision, which took place on January 27, 2012. The retroactive date is intended to cover modules that were shipped during the investigation, and to keep the market from being flooded before a final decision was made.
It remains unclear how long the DOC and ITC intend these tariffs to last, as neither party was specific about time frames in their preliminary decisions. According to a standard sunset provision, the DOC after five years must revoke an antidumping or countervailing duty order, or terminate a suspension agreement—unless doing so would likely lead to the continuation or recurrence of dumping or subsidies, as well as of material injury, within a reasonably foreseeable time.
The final determination by the U.S. agencies, in fact, proved little different from the IHS Solar preliminary findings in May. A key change since then is that pricing has remained flat to down for Chinese modules, which indicates that many of the affected Chinese players have internalized the additional costs of outsourcing cells to neighboring Taiwan, versus the previous assumption of IHS Solar that some pass-through would occur and move to the customer base.
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