Can 2013 slow the German solar market down?

A solar installation in GermanyDespite continual drawdowns of Germany’s solar incentives program the amount of newly installed solar in Germany continues to increase yearly. In fact, 2012 was a record year for solar installations in the country with 7.63 gigawatts of newly installed solar.

That’s the biggest year on record for new installations in any country. For instance, the U.S. is expected to install less than half that, 3.2 gigawatts, of photovoltaics in 2012, despite being much larger and more suited for PV. At the same time it was also the bigger than previous years in Germany. Its previous record of 7.485 gigawatts was reached in 2011 and more than the 7.4 gigawatts it installed in 2010.

The increases come despite cuts to the nation’s feed-in tariff, which spurred the growth of the market in the first place. Most recently the tariffs were cut by 2.5 percent per starting Nov 1, 2012, and going through Jan. 31, 2013, according to Reuters. The government is trying to slow the industry and it appears that the tariff reductions are helping.

A spokesperson for Bundesministeriums für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit, Germany’s environment and nature ministry, recently said the newly installed capacity in the last quarter of 2012 fell significantly compared to last year. This year it was less than a 20 percent of 2011’s overall installations. The spokesperson said 611 megawatts were installed in October, 435 MW in November and 360 MW in December, according to Reuters. Which, he said, shows the reductions are working. Now the ministry is expecting significantly less new solar energy in 2013. Somewhere between 3.5 gigawatts and 4 gigawatts of new solar this year.

"Germany is now reaping the fruits of its efforts in solar technology. Their share of the power supply has quadrupled in just three years. At the same time, the price of new solar power systems halved," said Carsten Koernig, chief executive for Germany’s Solar Industry Federation (BSW) in a Google Translation of comments. The organization said solar now accounts for about 5 percent of the country’s electric generation. And with current growth rates and expectations, is on track to produce 10 percent of its power via solar by 2020.