Solar to see strong growth again in 2020
PV installs expected to drive demand for uncommon metals Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – January 8, 2020
Last updated 6/27/2020 at 4:58am
Global solar installations will continue double-digit growth rates into the new decade, according to the 2020 Global Photovoltaic Demand Forecast by IHS Markit, a world leader in critical information and analytics.
This continued strong growth in solar installations is putting new demand on the metals that go into the solar panels and their installation.
Nine metals and minerals – beryllium, cadmium, gallium, germanium, indium, molybdenum, silicon, silver and tellurium – go into solar panels themselves. Another five – aluminum, copper, magnesium, titanium and zinc – are needed for the frames and wiring to install these photovoltaic (the use of solar cells to generate electricity, also known as PV) panels.
The skyrocketing metals demand being driven by the growing adoption of solar and wind energy, as well as electric vehicles, has scientists urging world governments to establish policies ahead of the likely mining of these materials under the ocean and in space. See Scientists urge green energy metal policies in this edition of Metal Tech News.
IHS Markit forecasts 142 gigawatts (GW) of new solar installations in 2020, this is 14 percent higher than 2019.
"Another year of double-digit global demand growth in 2020 is proof of the continued and exponential growth of solar PV installations in the last decade," said Edurne Zoco, director, clean technology and renewables, IHS Markit.
This exponential growth is reflected in the fact that the 142 gigawatts of new solar energy expected to be generated from the 2020 installations alone is seven times the entire capacity that had been installed prior to 2010.
"If the 2010s were the decade of technology innovation, steep cost reductions, large subsidies and dominance by a few markets then 2020 marks the decade of emerging unsubsidized solar, diversification and expansion of solar installation demand across the globe, new corporate entry players and increasing competitiveness versus conventional energy sources," Zoco continued.
The growth has been substantial in terms of geographic reach as well. There were seven countries with more than 1 GW of installed capacity in 2010, most of them confined to Europe. IHS Markit expects more than 43 countries to meet this threshold by the end of 2020.
Large markets such as China will continue to have an outsized share of new installations into the foreseeable future.
According to IHS Markit research, China accounted for more than 40 percent of the new solar installations during 2018. With other countries increasing photovoltaic installations, this percentage dropped below 30 percent in 2019.
Installations outside of China, the world's leading market, grew by as much as 53 percent in 2019 and are expected to continue growing by double digits in 2020. Overall, the top 10 solar markets are expected to see their collective share of the market fall to 7 percent, down from 94 percent in 2010.
"China will remain in the preeminent position as the overall leader in solar installations. But this decade will see new markets emerging in South East Asia, Latin America and the Middle East," said Zoco. "Still, the major markets will continue to be critical for the development of the solar industry, especially as test beds of technological innovation, policy development and new business models."
Here is IHS Markit's 2020 outlook for major solar markets:
China – Solar demand in 2020 will be lower than historic installation peaks of 50 GW in 2017. Demand in China is in a transitional phase as the market moves towards solar being unsubsidized and competing with other forms of generation and there is some lingering uncertainty while awaiting the release of the country's new five-year plan, to be announced next year.
United States – Solar installations are expected to grow 20 percent in 2020, consolidating the U.S.'s position as the world's second largest market. California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina and New York will be key drivers of U.S. demand growth over the next five years.
Europe – After nearly doubling installations in 2019, the European solar market is expected to continue growing in 2020, adding more than 24 GW, a 5 percent increase over 2019. Spain, Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy and Ukraine will be leading sources of demand, accounting for 63 percent of total European Union installations in the coming year.
India – Following a flat year in 2019, due to policy uncertainties and the impact of import duties on solar cells and modules, installations are expected to grow again and surpass 14 GW in 2020. Lower prices for solar panels and a large pipeline of projects are expected to spur this return to growth.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The double-digit growth in solar panel installations is putting increasing demands on metals that are rare or rarely mined due to limited markets outside of technology applications. Future Metal Tech News articles will delve deeper into the uses, markets and sources of beryllium, cadmium, gallium, germanium, indium, silver, tellurium and titanium.