The North American photovoltaics market experienced a boom in new installations in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2011, due to decreasing market prices and policy program changes. In 2012, the market boasts a 25 gigawatt (GW) non-residential and utility project pipeline.
Overall, 930 megawatts (MW) worth of photovoltaics was installed in Q4, according to NPD Solarbuzz's latest North American PV Markets Quarterly report. While large-scale ground-mount projects accounted for 59 percent of this total, New Jersey, California, Arizona and Ontario led the way, having comprised two thirds of the demand.
Specifically, the end of the 1603 treasury grant program was said to have spiked demand for systems in the U.S. Overall, says NPD Solarbuzz, the program supported one GW worth of projects.
Also in the U.S., a US$200 million boost to the California Solar Initiative (CSI) during Q4 helped address "a long waiting list for customer-side distributed generation." Furthermore, having raised the target for its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), the state has begun the implementation of several programs, which will reportedly drive the market for wholesale distributed generation projects worth between one and 20 MW.
New Jersey may have shown positive growth recently. However, according to NPD Solarbuzz, it has failed to address its Solar Renewable Energy Credits oversupply situation, which could impact the market. Pennsylvania is said to be in a similar predicament.
In 2012, the research company believes that photovoltaics growth in the U.S. will be supported by a 25 GW non-residential and utility project pipeline. Residential demand, meanwhile, is only forecast to "modestly" increase. This is due to market prices in the "five key states" that have already met their RPS requirements, declining.
It adds that downstream channels will see more restructuring. Key will be new project developers entering the market to realize the aforementioned 25 GW pipeline, and large downstream companies exiting the residential market.
Overall, demand is expected to be affected by the end of the Federal Cash Grant, approval timescales for large photovoltaic projects and those states which have already met their RPS's. Junko Movellan, NPD Solarbuzz senior analyst added, "In 2011, the pace of market price reductions was accelerated by the growth in Chinese module supply. The uncertainty caused by the Chinese anti-dumping case started to reshape supply and pricing in Q4'11; the ruling will shape the 2H'12 supply mix."
Looking at Canada, the company says that the large-scale photovoltaic projects completed in Q4 2011 were carried out under Ontario's RESOP incentive program. Meanwhile, the country's newer feed-in tariff program has supported around 100 MW worth of projects in the small-scale residential rooftop segment and non-residential projects.
"Large-scale systems under the FIT have been slow to start, due mainly to delays in regulatory and program-related approvals," said NPD Solarbuzz. "However, advancement in other areas - project financing and execution of product supply agreements - is evidence that these projects are well advanced, and most are positioned for installation during 2012."