Pinning down the language of solar

A few years ago the solar power industry was dominated by German and Latin languages in the form of European demand, but where is the solar heartland now?

Which language dominates the solar PV industry?

– ¿Cuántos paneles fotovoltaicos se puede pedir?

– У вас есть проектное финансирование?

– 政府政策是下个月

– What is the market share of tier 1 players in the US?

– ما هي حصة للطاقة الشمسية السكنية؟

These are a few of the issues – in just some of the languages – that are discussed within today’s solar PV industry.

At a time when globalisation and emerging markets occupy much of the sales and marketing narratives of the industry’s leading participants, it is revealing to compare and contrast how solar PV demand has cycled between groups of countries that share the same common language.

During the 1970s, the US was a leading proponent of solar PV with a strong focus on technology innovation and research achievements, matched only by Japan. And many of the c-Si production steps used today can be traced back to research at the University of New South Wales in Australia during the mid-1980s. While at a much lower level than the PV industry today, the US and Australia were two of the leading countries for solar PV deployment up to the mid-1990s.

In fact, by the end of 1995, English speaking countries (collectively) claimed the top-spot for PV installed globally. The other key language of the industry at this time was Japanese, with Japan having an equally prominent role in early PV deployment and domestic manufacturing.

Just three years ago, the industry was dominated by German and Latin languages in the form of European demand. Since then, the market has shifted dramatically, with approximately 50 per cent of end-market demand located in English and Chinese speaking environments. Japanese has also reclaimed a leading position as demand from commercial and utility customers continues to grow in Japan.

Looking forward, this trend is set to continue, with English speaking countries increasing overall share. In the analysis shown in the figure, English speaking countries include the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa and various other current or former colonies within which we have included India here for completeness.

While it is obvious that all English speaking countries do not operate in the same manner (the business and cultural environments of India and Canada vary widely for example), many of the countries share similar legal frameworks. And with English speaking countries set to lead solar PV demand by 2016, perhaps it adds some weight to the long-held saying, “the sun never sets on the British empire”.

Graph for Pinning down the language of solar

*Note: ‘1995 Cumulative’ covers cumulative PV installed through that year. Other years illustrate new PV added for each of the years shown.

This article was first published by SolarBuzz. Republished with permission.