December 1 (SeeNews) - 2016 is soon here and it promises to be another exciting and eventful year for the solar and renewable energy industry. Sven Lindstroem, CEO of thin film solar cell manufacturing equipment supplier Midsummer, outlines his predictions for the four strongest solar energy trends in 2016:
TREND 1: China will strengthen its position as the world’s leading producer of photovoltaic solar cells. China already is the most prominent player in this field and will not let go of the grip. Many have predicted/hoped for its downfall or at least reduced influence, but political stability, massive incentives and dedication by its entrepreneurs to be ‘the world's factory’ will keep Chinese producers in the top spot. Very few dare to invest in production capacity anywhere else in the world.
TREND 2: Governments will not be able to keep their hands off solar energy taxes. Many industry commentators have raised the big challenge utility companies face when consumers start generating their own electricity. That is true, but in most countries the government tax income from electricity is larger than utility company's income, and that income is generated without any investments or costs. As feed-in tariffs are lowered and installations move towards roof-top and self consumption, governments will not be able to let go of the taxes. In fact, I believe that many countries will follow Germany's self-consumption levy. So for all that hope for free, self-generated electricity: sorry, won’t happen.
TREND 3: Although factory gate prices for photovoltaic modules will not fall dramatically, I believe that there is still some room for improvements (i.e. price cuts) in installation and system costs. Efficiencies will be improved on module level but the majority of the production overcapacity is now gone, so improvements will have to come from innovations/improvements in installation costs.
TREND 4: A disappointing year for battery solutions. Battery solutions might have a future for off-grid systems and in sun-rich countries without large annual variations, but it all depends on how utility companies act. A decent feed-in tariff or net metering is always a better solution than battery solutions. The battery technology is still uncertain and the limited lifetime of battery systems makes the large investment into such systems uncomfortable. For that reason, I believe that battery solutions will not boom in 2016.