California-based market research firm iSuppli came out with a report today that forecasts rapid growth of solar PV installations in Ontario, though warns of a bottleneck in production during the first half of 2011 as developers struggle to meet stricter local content requirements. In 2009 Ontari0 had 69 MW of installed PV, but iSuppli said that will grow by 272.5 per cent to 257 MW in 2010. Stricter rules requiring 60 per cent local content will kick in next year, however, and that will create a supply crunch that slows down growth until the last quarter of 2011 when local manufacturing catches up with demand. As a result, we’ll see growth of 75.5 per cent in 2011 as installations climb to 451 MW. In 2012 we’ll see that number climb past 600 MW.
Mike Sheppard, a PV analyst with iSuppli and author of the report, says companies that have set up local manufacturing in Ontario will benefit the most during the 2011 crunch. According to an iSuppli press brief, “Firms like Canadian Solar, SMA, Fronius and Silfab are stepping in to meet the demand for local solar components, building module and inverter manufacturing facilities in Ontario.”
Sheppard acknowledged that Ontario’s decision to shut down all coal plants by 2014 and its introduction of a Green Energy Act and feed-in-tariff program are driving the explosive growth in PV. He called Ontario’s FIT program “North America’s first comprehensive guaranteed pricing structure for electricity production from renewable fuels sources including solar PV, bio-energy waterpower and wind.” The program, according to iSuppli, “could have a major influence throughout North America.”
This is a positive evaluation, but I don’t think it’s as positive as it could be. As I outlined earlier, module manufacturers alone are setting up local production facilities with a combined annual capacity of more than 1,000 MW. Not all will be built, but iSuppli seems to think that actual installations will be limited to between 150 and 200 MW a year. If that ends up the case, we could end up having some major oversupply issues in Ontario by the end of 2011. But given the huge volume of FIT applications being received by the Ontario Power Authority and amounting to potentially several thousand megawatts, I’m wondering if iSuppli is low-balling its forecast.