Solar panel demand heating up -

New research from market research outfit Solarbuzz states that demand for solar panels and the like grew 54 percent quarter over quarter, to a total of 3.82 GW. Solarbuzz expects the photovoltaic industry to have installed panels creating 15 GW of energy by the end of this year.

Germany was responsible for a huge 60 percent of demand and 2.30 GW. Italy was the second-largest market and more than doubled, growing 127 percent in the second quarter. However, Italy's market is merely 11 percent the size of the EU's economic pacemaker Germany. 

According to Solarbuzz president Craig Stevens, the German market experienced its strong growth to install capacity before feed-in tariffs declined in the middle of this year, or the money panel owners get for feeding surplus energy in to the grid.

Merkel's energy policy has been under great criticism recently in Germany, after the governing coalition prolonged the operating life of nuclear power plants, sparking the largest anti-nuclear demonstrations since the 1990s. The opposition demands more investments to be made in sustainable and renewable energy, instead of handing the energy market over to four power companies.

Solarbuzz claims total photovoltaic industry revenues were around $17.2 billion in the second quarter, compared to $12.0 billion in the first quarter and $6.2 billion in the second quarter a year ago.

Manufacturers of wafers and cells used for solar panels experienced capacity utilisation rates of 75 percent to 87 percent. Next year's first quarter is expected to be difficult, owing to further tariff cuts. Production is expected to be greater than demand.

Nonetheless, the world's largest foundry TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing) expects the photovoltaic industry to continue booming. The company is currently investing $258 million in an R&D centre right next to its Fab 15 Gigafab in Taiwan's Central Taiwan Science Park. TSMC plans its newest centre to ship 200 MW of thinfilm PV by 2012.

Digitimes reported today that GET (Green Energy Technology) is planning to spend $181 million on a factory for slicing and growing ingots to meet surging demand.

The Taiwanese PV supplier is currently expanding capacity from 600MWp to 1GWp, yet demand is still outstripping supply of its products from silicon solar cell makers such as Motech Industries and Neo Solar Power, all located in the Southern Taiwan Science Park.