Global Photovoltaics Market: China to lead as global solar powerhouse till 2020, with US following close behind for PV installation base

Global Photovoltaics Market: Cost volatility of crude oil is not the primary factor driving increasing adoption and installation of solar or windmill farms across the globe to generate electricity. Political instability, civil war, and terrorism in middle eastern countries has been contributing significantly to reduced output from oil fields. Also, sanctions on some of these countries is a major factor impacting availability of this much sought-after energy resource. In addition, the above-mentioned factors are creating a very unstable market due to price instability, which is also resulting in the need to increase energy costs to end-users.

The ultimate amount of oil is finite and cannot be replenished once it is extracted and burned, and hence cannot be considered a renewable resource. Once extracted, oil can be refined into various fuel products such as petrol, kerosene, liquefied petroleum gas (such as propane), distillates (diesel and jet fuels), and residuals including industrial and electricity fuels. These find application across various industries, sectors, and for several end-uses. Consumption of non-renewable sources such as oil, gas, and coal has been increasing at an alarming rate. Currently, the race is on to explore other renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Although many countries have started utilizing solar energy extensively, much needs to be done to exploit this resource sufficiently to fulfill the daily global demand for energy.

The primary benefit of solar energy is that it is a pollutant-free and is one of the cleanest sources of energy, and it is also a renewable source. Installation of a system is easy and requires low maintenance. The only limitation is that it cannot be used at night and the amount of sunlight striking a system or solar panel depends on location, time of day, time of year, and weather conditions.

Emergence and adoption of photovoltaic (PV) devices is one of the major breakthroughs of recent times. Photovoltaic devices generate electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process that occurs naturally in certain types of material called semiconductors. Electrons in these materials are freed by solar energy and can be induced to travel through an electrical circuit, powering electrical devices, or sending electricity to the grid.

Adoption of photovoltaics in various countries across the globe has witnessed a significant upsurge between 2007 and 2017. From a market of small scale applications to a mainstream electricity source, solar power has been steadily perceived as a boon to both private and commercial users. Photovoltaics, also known as solar PV, has evolved from a niche market of small scale applications to a mainstream electricity source. When solar PV systems were first recognized as a promising renewable energy technology, programs such as feed-in tariffs were implemented by governments of a number of countries in order to provide economic incentives for investments. For several years now, growth was mainly driven by Japan and pioneering European countries. As a result, the cost of solar technology and equipment and associated infrastructure has declined significantly due to experience-curve effects like improvements in technology and economies of scale. Experience curves describe that the price of an item or product decreases with the sum-total ever produced.

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PV industry growth increased even more rapidly when production of solar cells and modules started to ramp up in the US. Since then, deployment of photovoltaics has gained momentum on a global scale during 2015–2016. This was more prominent in regions such as Asia and North America, and other regions where solar PV was increasingly competing with conventional energy sources as grid parity. Historically, the US was the leader in terms of installed photovoltaics for several years, and its total capacity amounted to 77 megawatts in 1996, which was more than any other country in the world at the time. Thereafter, Japan was the world leader in terms of produced solar electricity until 2005, after which Germany took the lead had capacity of over 40 gigawatts by 2016 end. In 2015 however, China became world as the largest producer of photovoltaic power.

The cumulative global market revenue for solar PV is projected to triple by 2020, and total global solar capacity is expected be between 500 GW and 700 GW. Germany and Turkey are expected to be the largest among other countries in the European Market by 2020. However, China will retain its position as the global solar powerhouse over the next five years as it seeks to reduce its dependence on coal, while The US looks set to be home to the second largest PV installed base in the world.

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