Solar PV & Renewable Energy prices

Global Solar Power Trends – Asia (part 2)

Over the last decade, Asia has been steadily claiming a central place in the field of renewable energy, and today many countries such as Japan, India and China have become major players that are actively pursuing the development and proliferation of renewable energy sources such as solar power. The rapidly developing economies of China and India coupled with populations in the billions, many of whom survive without such basic things as electricity, have become fertile ground for the solar industry, becoming both prime consumers and supplies of solar technologies. The active financial and policy commitments that many Asian governments have made to solar power will have a long lasting effect on the industry as a whole. Last year, we have already begun to see these affects in Europe and USA with Chinese manufacturers flooding the global markets with cheap solar panels, causing the prices to drop, making solar more affordable for average consumers and leaving many European and US manufacturers unable to compete and bankrupt. Asia’s role in the future of solar cannot be underestimated and the future of the industry will in great part depend on its development in Asia’s growing economies.


Image of Floating solar PV farm in Japan

Japan has a long history of being one of the top global leaders in solar energy, along with Germany, Italy and USA. However, tragic events of the last two years have given Japan a tremendous push to speed up its movement towards renewable energy and away from dependence on fossil fuels. The first event that had tremendous repercussions on the country’s energy security was the nuclear power disaster at Tokyo Electric Power’s Dai-ichi plant in Fukushima. Following this event, the government’s response was to shut down all except for 3 of the 54 domestic nuclear power plants. It is possible that all of them could be shut down in the near future if restart approvals will be denied. The downside of this move has been Japan’s over-dependence on fossil fuel imports, and the country is facing a bill, which increases $30 billion a year. The second event that further ramped up the urgency for renewable energy was the Great East Japan Earthquake (the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan) and subsequent tsunami, which occurred on March 11, 2011 off the coast of Fukushima.

Understanding that dependence on foreign sources of energy is not a sustainable model, Japan’s government is instituting a broad-based initiative to increase domestic renewable energy sources to meet its energy needs. The center piece of this new policy is a national feed-in tariff (FiT), which is supposed to go in effect on July 1, 2012. Under this tariff, Japanese electric utilities are required to purchase electricity generated from renewable energy sources at set prices that cover costs plus a margin over a set period of time. The law will allow electric utilities to recoup the additional cost by levying a surcharge based on their customers’ usage.

According to data from the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association (JPEA), Domestic sales of solar PV cells increased 30.7% year-over-year in 2011 to 1,296 MW. This was a major success as this was the first time sales exceeded 1 gigawatt (GW). The total was greatly boosted by government incentives for people installing solar energy systems on their homes. Moreover, from 2011-2020, the country’s domestic market for PV power generation systems is expected to grow to 1,725 billion yen (about US$ 22.4 billion). This figure represents a 263.2% increase. 2011 was also a strong year for Japanese solar manufacturers. Growing global demand for solar power lead to a 1.2 % increase of Japanese solar PV cell exports, totaling 1,462 MW.


image of Solar PV farm in India

India with its rapidly growing economy, bustling industrialization and a population of a billion people is becoming a key player in the global solar industry. Being the third-biggest carbon emitter, India is aware of the fact that it must wean itself off fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy sources. Consequently, Indian government is actively promoting the usage of solar power, and the number of installed PV capacity has been steadily growing across the country as a result of drops in solar energy costs. In fact, prices for solar energy have dropped so much that solar power provided by some companies such as a French solar company Solairedirect, in India is now cheaper than diesel. The company offers solar power to India’s national grid for 14c (US) per kWH, less than the average 25c cost of diesel.

Video: India – a rising Solar Power

India’s rapidly growing GDP has paved the way for major infrastructure projects including power generation and water systems. This means that clean energy sources including solar power will enjoy a growing commercial market throughout the country for many years to come. India is expected to install 3 GW of solar by 2016, compared with the 54 MW of solar installed in 2010. The government has a target goal of 20 GW of solar by 2020, which has given a push to large power companies and start-ups to develop new solar businesses and projects. A report by Bridge to India provides an even more ambitious estimate, projecting that by 2022 India will have 33.4 gigawatts (GW) of solar power installed. Furthermore the report estimates that by 2018, India will hit grid parity, which will make solar a far more attractive energy option for investors who only care about the market price of solar energy, without considering the health, environmental and energy security costs of heavily relying on fossil fuels. Currently, most of India’s solar plans are for grid-connected solar — big utilities installing solar PV farms that will provide solar power for the grid.

In addition to large solar farms connected to the grid, there are many potential opportunities for off-grid solar power that can be utilized by medium and small size business as well as rural homes that either have no access to the grid or it is highly unreliable. According to the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), currently 40 percent of the population does not have access to the grid. The people that have access to the grid can still greatly benefit from solar power because the grid is often extremely unreliable, and prolonged power outage happen even in such megapolises as Mumbai. The only downside is that at the moment there is not enough government support for these small or off-grid solar power applications, since government subsidies are primarily funneled into utility-scale solar PV projects.


image of solar pv panels manufacturing in China

Among all countries around the globe, China is in the most interesting position with regard to solar power: while it hold the # 1 spot, dominating the global photovoltaic cell manufacturing, it trails many countries by a wide margin in terms of installed solar energy capacity. It is a paradox that while China has played an active role in helping lower the price of solar panels and make it more accessible to consumers around the world by producing and selling them at dirt cheap prices, it continues to be a major polluter, primarily relying on fossil fuels to power its rapid growth and industrialization.

China goes green (are those Solyndra panels?):

The Chinese government, being acutely aware of this issue has taken a very strong stance in supporting the development of China’s domestic renewable energy sources including solar power, is pouring billions of dollars into financing the budding renewable energy industry. In 2012 alone China will reportedly spend $27 billion on cleantech, which will include: emissions reductions, energy efficiency and clean energy such as solar and wind power. Moreover, according to the Guardian, China’s finance ministry stated that it plans to promote energy-saving products, solar and wind power and accelerate the development of renewable energy and hybrid cars.

Statistics from 2011 reveal that the Chinese government really means business when it states its commitment to solar power: over the course of 2011, China’s solar energy goals for 2015 have shot up from 5 GW to 10 GW. According to the Scientific American, last year, on the last day of the year, China reached a total of 1 GW of installed solar power in 2011! China’s National Energy Administration (NEA), projects that in 2012 the country will hit a “total installed capacity of 3 GW. China’s active role in renewable energy is an example to be followed: by 2020 China’s goal is to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45%, compared with 2003 levels, and have 15 % of overall energy consumption come from renewable energy sources. Given China’s impressive track record, there is little doubt the country will reach its goals.

Read part I –

Read part III – Global Solar Tends: United States

Levchik (Leo) is a renewable energy activist from Boston, MA, and has been involved with alternative energy and green construction since 2004.

In 2009, Leo and his green roofing company ( sponsored Boston’s Solar Decathlon Team, providing materials and installation labor to install a cool white roof on the top of Curio home (Joint effort by Tufts University and Boston Architecture College) – more info about the project here.

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with 2 comments

Written by Levchik B

Posted on June 27th, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Solar Prices

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2 Responses to 'Global Solar Power Trends – Asia (part 2)'

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  1. The World Goes Solar. Japan’s FiT in July is among the highest in the world. It’s clear that Japan’s FiT will shake the solar market. Now, US has the same options. New solar technology will show in Japan. This is it!
    As you know, earthquake in japan is happening frequently. Floating solar panels installation is one of the best solutions for power crisis in Japan. So you have to reduce vibration to install Floating solar panels. Because, it makes many kinds of problems! Vibrations caused by wind, waves and external forces. New Floating Body Stabilizer for Floating solar panels installation has been created in South Korea. The Floating Body Stabilizers generate drag force immediately when Floating solar panels are being rolled and pitched on the water. Recently, these Floating Body Stabilizers have been used to reduce vibration of Floating Solar Panels in South Korea. You can see New Floating Body Stabilizer videos in YouTube.,

    Minwoo Kim

    3 Jul 12 at 4:50 am

  2. Hi Minwoo … that’s very interesting – thanks for posting


    5 Jul 12 at 7:22 pm

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