Last year, in advance of Germany's solar subsidies being cut once again, developers raced to install as much solar as possible - and set a record at 7.5 gigawatts (GW) for 2011.
An astounding 3 GW were added in December alone (almost double what the US installed last YEAR).
About 3400 megawatts (MW) were added in the final quarter of 2011, and 4,150 MW were added in the first nine months. In 2010, Germany added 7.4 GW of solar in advance of subsidy cuts.
The country is on track to surpass 52 GW of solar by 2020, which is part of its National Renewable Energy Action Plan.
Installations of about 225 megawatts through April would trigger an automatic 15% cut in subsidies beginning in July, the regulator said. Germany installed about 7.4 gigawatts of panels in 2010 before Merkel's government trimmed subsidies.
That means Germany is likely to further cut subsidies another 15% in July, but it also means there's likely an increase in demand that may offset the plunge in solar prices. New subsidy cuts will be triggered if 225 MW are added through April of 2012.
Germany's grid operator notes that prices for solar systems are falling faster than subsidies.
But Frank Asbeck, SolarWorld CEO, attributes the year-end rush partly to Chinese unloading their massive inventory for large-scale solar plants.
SolarWorld, which is Germany's largest solar manufacturer, and also has extensive operations in the US, filed
the US trade complaint against Chinese solar firms. He's also looking to begin similar proceedings in Europe for allegedly dumping solar panels at below market costs.
German manufacturers Solon (SOO1) and Solar
Millennium (S2M) filed for bankruptcy last month and Q-Cells, once the world's largest solar cell manufacturer, is looking for a buyer.
"The solar industry fulfilled its promise to produce more
and cheaper electricity, says Carsten Koernig, chief executive of the Federal Association of Solar Industry Association (BSW-Solar). By 2012 solar power will come from your own roof at the same price as household electricity prices. By 2014, large solar farms will produce electricity at prices as favorable as wind power at sea."
In 2012, tariffs for solar PV plants built on brownfield sites
will be about the same as those for offshore wind (€0.15/kWh; $0.20/kWh) which includes a bonus if projects are finished by 2018, bringing the total to €0.19/kWh ($0.26 USD/kWh).
Germany requires the tariff be reduced 9% a year, depending on the amount of solar installed. Tariffs have fallen over 57% since 2004, effectively driving world solar PV prices toward grid parity.
Worldwide, solar PV installations are expected to reach 24 GW for 2011 when final figures come in. That's a rise of 24% from the previous year.