8 Solar Trends to Follow in 2015


Every quarter, GTM Research’s solar analysts compile the most important data and findings from the past three months.  The most important charts from the Q4 2014 Solar Executive Briefing covering pricing, installations, financing, policy and business models follow.

1. The new China solar tariff decision may drive panel prices below 65 cents per watt this year.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Commerce filed its preliminary review of the import tariffs on Chinese cells into the U.S. The review called for tariffs on Chinese cells to be reduced, and assuming the final decision doesn’t stray too far from the review, GTM Research expects U.S. module prices to fall to 64 cents per watt this year.

2. High-efficiency module technologies are gaining steam.

According to GTM Research’s Shyam Mehta, the shift is “driven by the increased value proposition of high efficiency relative to module costs, an end-market mix shift toward rooftop applications, and reduced all-in costs for high-efficiency products.”

3. The megawatt-scale solar operations and maintenance (O&M) market still looks like the Wild West.

Dozens of companies are fighting for market share in the operations and maintenance market, from inverter and module manufacturers to developers and EPCs (engineering, procurement and construction). Everyone wants a piece of the O&M (Operations & Maintenance) pie.


4. Grid integration is becoming an increasing focus for inverter manufacturers.

Inverter manufacturers are beginning to design solutions to help alleviate some of the integration challenges facing utilities. The chart below highlights a few markets with high PV penetration relative to electricity generating capacity.

5. Net energy metering is becoming popular outside of the U.S.

Net energy metering has helped grow distributed generation PV markets in the United States, and other countries have started to take notice. GTM Research’s Adam James highlights a few NEM (Net Energy Metering) proposals across three continents that aren’t North America.

6. More than 4 gigawatts of utility-scale solar have been procured outside of RPS requirements in the past twelve months.

GTM Research’s Cory Honeyman attributes the success of projects outside RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) guidelines to utility-scale PV’s competitiveness with natural-gas alternatives.

7. Best-in-class residential solar will be installed for less than $3 per watt this year.

The largest cost difference between best-in-class installers and the rest of the market comes from labor and supply chain savings.

8. Loans are the hottest thing in U.S. residential solar.

As reported last year, the market share for residential solar leases peaked in 2014 as loans have emerged and shifted the market back toward direct ownership. Solar Analyst Nicole Litvak developed a taxonomy of companies offering residential solar loans in the U.S.


Citation: Munsel, M. (2015, January 22). The Most Important Trends in Solar 8 Charts. Retrieved January 25, 2015, from http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/The-Most-Important-Trends-in-Solar-in-8-Charts


Climate Panel Issues Dire Report as Renewables Make Little Impact

By David Talbot on November 3, 2014

The latest comprehensive global scientific assessment of climate change, released on Sunday, sounds the direst warning yet about the need to drastically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. But despite years of such reports, fossil-fuel use and human-caused emissions continue to rise, and renewable energy technologies have so far failed to make a significant difference.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-convened panel of the world’s scientific community, estimates that in order to have a 66 percent chance of limiting total average warming to less than 2 °C relative to preindustrial levels—a goal widely seen as a threshold beyond which severe changes are far more likely—the world’s human population can emit no more than one trillion tons of carbon dioxide, and that we’ve already emitted more than half that much.

Avoiding going over one trillion tons would mean reducing greenhouse-gas emissions 40 to 70 percent by 2050 and slashing them to almost zero by 2100, the report estimates.

Such estimates were first made in 2009 (see this Nature paper) without prompting much in the way of policy changes to reduce emissions. But this is the first time the IPCC has embraced the concept of a global carbon budget in one of its comprehensive sets of assessments, which the panel issues every few years. On Sunday, the IPCC released the synthesis of the fifth set of such reports since 1990.

The task ahead is now far clearer for countries that have signed on to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), says Myles Allen, lead author of the 2009 paper, who heads climate research at the Environmental Change Institute of the University of Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment. These nations will meet for the next round of climate talks in Paris in late 2015.

With the IPCC having reviewed and endorsed the idea of a carbon budget, nations “haven’t got any excuse to ignore it now,” he says. “It’s not for the IPCC to recommend policy, but speaking personally, I very much hope [the countries] will now acknowledge the fact that their two-degree goal implies a cumulative limit on carbon emissions. And it is a limit we are rapidly approaching.”

At current rates, the “budget” would be spent in just 30 years. Reducing emissions below the threshold is a monumental task. It would require large-scale burial of carbon dioxide from many hundreds of existing coal power plants—but this effort has barely begun (see “Carbon Sequestration: Too Little, Too Late?”). In addition, it would require almost quadrupling the present supply of renewable energy and nuclear energy, the report estimates, as well as other vast efforts, including stopping deforestation and making widespread changes to agriculture practices.

And yet emissions keep rising. As one example, coal power plants already produce more than 14 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year (that’s about four billion tons of carbon) and are becoming more numerous.

If we continue on the current path, heat-trapping gases will build up to produce a surge in average global temperatures of 3.7 °C to 4.8 °C by 2100. The result will be a dangerous rise in sea levels, more profound droughts and heat waves (greatly stressing world water and food supplies), and more powerful storms and floods.

The idea of a carbon budget could clarify matters for governments, says Tim Profeta, director of the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. “This concept might prove useful at the negotiating table, as it changes the question from one of annualized emissions of individual nations,” he says. “Negotiations could then focus on how to divide that budget amongst individual countries.”

The IPCC says it is at least 95 percent certain that human activities, led by the burning of fossil fuels, are the main cause of the climate change seen since 1950, up from 90 percent in the previous assessment in 2007 and 66 percent in 2002. Its report is based on 30,000 scientific papers studied by about 830 authors and 2,000 reviewers.

Talbot, D. (2014, November 3). Climate Panel Warns Again of Disastrous Climate Change | MIT Technology Review. Retrieved November 9, 2014.