Japan: Solar PV hits 10 GW milestone
by Joshua Hill
Cumulative solar PV installed in Japan at the end of August 2013
Japanese solar PV installations have passed 10 GW of cumulative capacity [equivalent to ten nuclear reactors]. It is only the fifth country in the world to reach this mark. Writing on the Solarbuzz website, Finlay Colville highlights Japan’s recent milestone, and also points out that it was the first country to reach 1 GW of cumulative solar PV, in 2004. This was helped by:
- The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry launched a subsidy program for residential PV systems as far back as 1994. Initially, the subsidy covered 50% of the cost of PV systems.
- Until 2005, Japan had the largest installed PV capacity of any country in the world. This early leadership position was achieved through a well-managed set of programs, coupled with attractive market incentives.
- The early growth of this PV market was a strong factor in establishing Japanese manufacturing as the first dominant force in the industry. Manufacturers that benefited from the first phase of government initiatives include several of the companies now ;leading a domestic PV industry revival: Sharp, Sanyo and Kyocera.
In the Face of Fukushima
Another factor to be considered in Japan’s recent increase in solar PV installation must be the fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster which followed the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. A feed-in tariff program was launched in July 2012 which was focused towards fostering the development and installation of renewable energy throughout the country as a direct response to the subsequent shut down of all of Japan’s nuclear reactors in the wake of the disaster. This feed-in tariff has been instrumental in accelerating the deployment of large-scale renewable technologies, helping the country’s PV market grow rapidly over the past 12 months.
There is a litany of Japanese solar stories covered on CleanTechnica to back up these numbers, not the least of which was a report published in March of this year that predicted the number of Japanese solar installations would overtake the US and Germany this year. In May 2013, IMS Research/IHS reported that not only had Japan reached 1.5 GW in the first quarter, but that Japanese PV installations surged by “a stunning 270 percent in the first quarter of 2013, and are on track to become the world’s largest solar revenue market this year. Japan’s PV industry has benefited greatly from renewed interest in the sector, resulting in:
- Cumulative solar PV installed in Japan exceeded 10.5 GW at the end of August 2013.
- Until the end of 2012, the Japanese PV market had been heavily weighted towards the rooftop segment, with 97% of capacity.
- During the first eight months of 2013, the ground-mount segment accounted for 27% of new solar PV capacity installed.
- Over the first three quarters of calendar year 2013, Japan is forecast to install more PV capacity than during the entire three-year period spanning 2010 to 2012.
- At the end of August 2013, rooftop solar PV installations remain the dominant type of PV installations by project number and by MW volume, with 89% of market share by capacity. The remaining 11% is spread across the ground-mount and off-grid segments.
Giles Parkinson from RenewEconomy notes that “China, Japan, and the US will compete for domination in the coming years,” while noting that fresh faces are going to be growing up over that same period, with “strong markets in the rest of Asia, Africa and South America also emerging.”
Looking back over 2013, we can see just how efficiently the Japanese solar PV industry has been working. Japan is one of only two countries to be home to a leading solar module manufacturer (Sharp), outside of China, which dominates the sector. By February 2013, Japan had 12.2 GW of new solar installations in the pipeline, including a 400 MW solar power park approved for installation on a remote island located off the southern coast. Deutche Bank reports the Japanese market could well reach an annual “run rate” of 7 to 9 GW.
The future of Japanese solar power
Looking forward, new figures from Mercom Capital Group reiterate earlier estimations of a global installation forecast for solar PV of approximately 38 GW by the end of the year, including 8.5 GW in China, 7 GW in Japan and 4.5 GW in the US. Mercom's Co-Founder and CEO Raj Prabhu states:
“After years of overcapacity, bankruptcies and record low prices we are now seeing price stabilization, higher capacity utilization rates and a move towards supply-demand equilibrium...Market conditions for solar look much better than they did just three months ago and we are reiterating our global installation forecast of ~38 GW for 2013. One of the big overhangs, the China-EU trade case, has been settled, which could have otherwise set off an all-out trade war. This brings some sorely needed certainty to the market.”
All in all, Japan’s solar industry is heading in a good direction, and minus a few bumps along the way, it will be no real surprise to see Japan at the top of solar PV tables for years to come.
◊ Source: CleanTechnica. Publ. here 18.9.2013