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Solar to Eclipse Wind in New Capacity for First Time in 2013
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September 26, 2013

Solar to Eclipse Wind in New Capacity for First Time in 2013

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor

Solar will outshine wind in terms of capacity-added for the first time this year, according to forecasts from London-based Bloomberg (News - Alert) New Energy Finance (BNEF).

It’s not that solar has risen that much but rather the flurry of wind installations has calmed compared to 2012.  Specifically, BNEF expects to see 33.8 gigawatts (GW) of new onshore wind capacity in 2013, as well as 1.7 GW of offshore wind—for a total of 35.5 GW in capacity. In comparison, analysts see a “flare” in the solar category, with a median forecast of 36.7 GW of new photovoltaic (PV), capacity.

Looking at last year, wind (both on- and offshore) added 46.6 GW, while solar added 30.5GW—record figures in both cases. But the past few months have seen a downtrend in the world’s two largest wind markets, China and the United States, which is clearing the way for the rapidly growing PV market to outdistance wind (if not by as great a margin as wind had claimed previously).

“The dramatic cost reductions in PV, combined with new incentive regimes in Japan and China, are making possible further, strong growth in volumes,” commented Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Europe is a declining market because many countries there are rapidly moving away from incentives, but it will continue to see new PV capacity added.”

Her colleague, Justin Wu, head of wind analysis, said: “We forecast that wind installations will shrink by nearly 25 percent in 2013, to their lowest level since 2008, reflecting slowdowns in the United States and China caused by policy uncertainty. However, falling technology costs, new markets and the growth of the offshore industry will ensure [that] wind remains a leading renewable energy technology.”

Image via Shutterstock

Head-to-Head by 2030—and Profitable, Too?

Despite the change in rankings for 2013, the maturing sectors of onshore wind and PV will contribute almost equally to the world’s new electricity capacity additions between now and 2030, according to BNEF.

Indeed, analysts predict that wind (on- and offshore) will expand from 5 percent of the world’s total installed power generation capacity in 2012, to 17 percent in 2030. PV, which started from a lower base of 2 percent in 2012, will vault to 16 percent by 2030.

What’s more, after years of oversupply and consolidation, technology suppliers in both sectors may see a move back to profitability in 2013. Michael Liebreich, chief executive of BNEF, commented: “Cost cuts and a refocusing on profitable markets and business segments have bolstered the financial performance of wind turbine makers and the surviving solar manufacturers. Stock market investors have been noticing this change, and clean energy shares have rebounded by 66 percent since their lows of July 2012.”

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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