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Solar PV Demand May Rise 18 Percent This Year, Maxim Group Says

Solar photovoltaic demand may rise 18 percent to 38.2 gigawatts in 2013, led by a doubling of sales in China, Maxim Group LLC analysts Aaron Chew and Francesco Citro said today in a note to investors.

The uptick in demand, from an estimated 32.3 gigawatts in 2012, is driven by “the severe collapse in module prices since 2011,” a trend that may not reverse, the analysts wrote.

“We foresee little upside to profitability for the solar manufacturers albeit a boon to downstream pure-plays” like Solarcity Corp., they wrote. “Even if demand upside leads to tight supply, we foresee no sustainable rise in pricing, as this itself would inversely impair demand.”

Manufacturers including Canadian Solar Inc., Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. and Trina Solar Ltd. all suffered from narrowing margins last year as price declines wiped out profits. The cost of multi-crystalline silicon modules declined more than 20 percent to 78 cents per watt last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Maxim’s forecast for this year’s market compares with the 33.4 gigawatts predicted by Deutsche Bank AG, which said in a Jan. 10 note that it expected 22 percent growth from its estimate for 2012 of 27.4 gigawatts. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts global installations of about 33.5 gigawatts in 2013, up from about 30 gigawatts in 2012.

Germany will fall from the top spot this year for the first time in five years, with demand more than cut in half to 3.8 gigawatts, according to Maxim. The U.S. market will rise about 40 percent to 4.6 gigawatts, while demand in Japan will more than double to 4.2 gigawatts, the analysts predicted.

India will probably be the fifth biggest market, with demand rising more than a third to 1.9 gigawatts, and Italian demand will more than halve to 1.7 gigawatts, according to the forecast.

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