Photovoltaic installations rose to between 26.5 and 29.4 gigawatts last year, compared with 18.2 gigawatts during 2010, said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at the London-based research company. Her central forecast was for 28 gigawatts.
European governments from the Germany to Italy and the U.K. are curbing subsidies as prices for PV panels decline, aiming to choke off a boom in installations that started after they offered feed-in tariffs giving above-market rates for electricity from low-carbon sources.
“The year was on the high side of even bullish estimates,” Chase said by e-mail. “We think 2012 will be about flat, as European markets have overshot targets and spending caps and plan to rein back severely.”
Solar installations grew around the world, driven by crashing panel prices. Shares of solar companies led by First Solar Inc. (FSLR) and Suntech Power Holdings Co. declined because of oversupply and declining margins.
New spending on solar energy jumped 36 percent to $136.6 billion in 2011, outpacing the $74.9 billion put into wind power, and represented almost half of all renewable energy investment worldwide last year, BNEF said in a statement yesterday. Those figures also include solar thermal facilities, which use mirrors to heat fluid that turns turbines.
Chase said the strength of installations in the fourth quarter isn’t a reason for optimism in 2012. European markets will slow because of subsidy cuts, and while nearly all the other markets will continue to grow, they are smaller.
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