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Solar industry survey highlights challenges but finds stakeholders optimistic

A new survey of utility-scale solar industry stakeholders sheds light on perceptions of the current state of solar and the future outlook.

The report, titled Solar Energy Industry and Construction Trends, was compiled from responses of 265 professionals in the solar industry at the 2011 Fall Solar Power International Conference.

Mortenson Construction, a contractor with over 100 wind and solar projects in North America, surveyed participants representing utilities, developers, independent power producers, financiers, and suppliers.

According to the respondents, the most important drivers for growth in the U.S. solar industry – with a tripling of installations in the past two years – have been falling module prices and technological advancements.

Credit: Mortenson Construction

Respondents were optimistic about solar energy’s ability to reach grid parity. According to Mark Donahue, a vice president and general manager of Mortenson Construction’s Renewable Energy groups, “more than half of the respondents believe parity with fossil fuels will be achieved within the next 10 years.”

But the survey also found that industry players “acknowledged vulnerability to government policy and continuing budget deficits. The industry continues to face significant structural challenges in areas such as transmission infrastructure and energy storage.”

The report also noted that 56 percent of respondents thought the expiration of the 1603 Treasury grant program would have a modest negative impact on the industry, while 30 percent thought the negative impact would be large.

All in all, the report claims the solar industry is “experiencing pricing pressures from other energy sources and fearful of inadequate government incentives and policy support.”

The survey also probed the key drivers of public interest in renewable energy. Of the industry professionals surveyed, 51 percent thought consumers were mostly interested in renewable because of a desire to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources, while only 19 percent thought that reducing green house gas emissions was a key concern.

The report gathers perspectives from key players right across the industry. However, the survey was conducted before CASM’s anti-dumping petition against Chinese PV module manufacturers, begging the question of whether some of the industry outlook perceptions still stand.

Read the full report here.


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