In 2010, global market volume for wind energy was 41 gigawatts, a modest 7% higher than the volume in the record year 2009. In 2010, the solar PV market was 14,5 gigawatts, a growth of over 90% compared to 2009.
The wind energy market achieved this market size in 2006, which would suggest that solar PV is only 4 years behind in its development. In 2009 the ‘gap’ was still 7 years: the PV market volume of slightly more than 7 gigawatts of newly-installed power was already achieved by the wind energy market back in 2002.
Wind and Solar Energy: Similar Growth Paths
Looking at the growth curves of both technologies, we see much similarity (see graph below). Both have gone through the phases of attractive subsidies, individual markets exploding, and markets facing subsidy cuts. But, overall and globally, the wind energy market, and now the solar PV market, have shown nothing but growth.
Now, it seems that PV is catching up with the wind growth path. Looking ahead, the wind energy market is expected to grow 9-15% in the coming years, reaching a volume of around 60 gigawatts in 2014. Solar PV, for its part, may well reach a market volume of 36 gigawatts by that time.
No Market Decline
Particularly encouraging is the fact that the wind energy market has shown no decline since 1996. So there is no reason to suggest that the PV market will ever decline. Renewable Energy is a sector set for growth. Does anyone believe that RE will lose importance in the years to come? Or that oil prices will plummet because oil demands will easily be met by increasing production capacity? Or that growing energy demands can easily be met by new coal and nuclear power plants? Or that the earth’s ever-increasing population will be supplied easily with fossil fuels? And then there is this little CO2 issue driving the need for clean energy.
The Sun is More Reliable
If Renewable Energy in general, and wind energy in particular, are setting the trend for the global PV market, then the solar energy market is expected to grow to a yearly volume of over 50 gigawatts within the space of only 5 years. It would not surprise me if solar PV becomes a bigger market than wind energy some day - my guess being within less than 10 years. PV is more versatile in that it can be applied in many more ways. Apart from the large-scale projects which are driving the wind energy market, PV also has a bright future for decentralized (small) power applications, and in small applications, on- and off-grid, as well as in a vast array of products. And, at the end of the day, the sun is even more reliable and predictable than wind. Wind is sometimes hard to predict. One can be pretty sure that the sun will shine every day...