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assumes that by 2020 the lifetime of the solar modules will be 30 years,” he said, “this is quite ambitious.”


Robert M. Margolis
National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Dr. Margolis said he would speak about trends in PV development, the DoE’s Solar program, and lessons from several public-private partnerships. He began with some background on the global PV industry and investment trends highlighting the fact that global PV production has been growing very rapidly over the past couple of decades and that both public and private sector investment in PV technology has grown dramatically during the past four to five years. In 1980, the United States was responsible for more than 75 percent of global PV production in what was then a nascent market. By the 1990s, Japan had begun a federal program of incentives and quickly became the global market leader; the U.S. share of production dropped to the 30 percent to 50 percent range. In the past decade, leadership has shifted to European countries and, more recently, China and Taiwan have expanded production rapidly. Cumulative installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity worldwide as of the end of 2008 was estimated to be 13.7 GW. Germany was the leader at 5.4 GW of cumulative installed capacity, followed by Spain, Japan, the United States, South Korea, Italy, and France. U.S. cumulative installed PV capacity through 2008 was 1.1 GW. California continued to dominate the market with 530 MW in cumulative installed capacity, a 67 percent market share, with New Jersey second at 70 MW or 9 percent market share. U.S. cumulative installed capacity of 1.1 GW was a 43 percent increase over 0.77 GW in 2007.16 While the growth in PV production and installations has been very rapid, PV still accounts for only a small fraction of U.S. generating capacity.

In addition to rapid growth in production, the growth in investments in solar technologies has been dramatic during the past couple of years. Just five or six years ago, according to data from New Energy Finance, only a few tens of millions of dollars were going into PV from the private sector; this figure had risen to tens of billions of dollars a year. “This has been a dramatic change,” said Dr. Margolis, “and has had a very big impact on how the industry is organized, how it does R&D, and how it interacts with the government.”

Venture capital and private equity, he said, have taken on a larger role beginning in the mid-2000s, and especially in the last three years. This investment varies enormously by region and technology. For example, the EU has invested primarily in crystalline silicon technologies and project development. In contrast,


16Data drawn from numerous sources as presented in Price and Margolis (2009).

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