Cloudy horizon at Intersolar 2011
The future looks unclear for the PV market going into Intersolar Europe, particularly after a very difficult 2010 for the industry.
For me, Intersolar Europe has been the solar industry’s annual celebration, pulling thousands from every corner of the industry under one roof for three days. 2011 was in many ways the same as every other year; Enormous exhibition booths attracted thousands of visitors with novelties such as rodeo bulls, cocktails and live music. However, in many ways 2011 was very different.
I remember 2010’s show for the unusually hot weather; with hardly a single cloud crossing the sky and temperatures soaring, which was somewhat representative of the market at that time. The halls were filled with a few thousand exhibitors, all celebrating as the market boomed, and everyone I spoke to had only one concern - how to double the size of their businesses in less than a year.
Last week’s Intersolar was a very different show. Storms postponed many flights to the show (including mine!) and the sun barely broke the clouds and heavy rain at all during the week. Similarly the topics for discussion had changed. This year, the main topic I found myself discussing was how will companies survive diving prices, declining shipments and evaporating margins. Many are looking to the future and asking when the next recovery will come. Personally, I see volumes recovering in the second half of 2011, but prices and revenues will be sacrificed to achieve this throughout the supply chain.
Currently, many are also drawing similarities between 2011 and 2009, when the year began very slowly as a result of declining prices and stalling major markets (Spain at that time). For me, there is a clear difference between these two years though; 2011 will not be followed by another 2010.
In fact, beyond 2011, the horizon is certainly cloudy but we remain positive about the longer term prospects for the PV industry.