In its recently released Marketbuzz® 2011, Solarbuzz, an energy consulting firm, reports the global solar photovoltaic (PV) industry had a record year in 2010.

According to Solarbuzz's research, global solar installations reached a record 18.2 gigawatts last year, which represents 139% growth over 2009's installations.  Additionally, PV collectively generated US$82 billion in revenue last year, up 105% from the US$40 billion that was generated in 2009.

In terms of demand, the top five countries in the world are:  Japan, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, and the United States.  These five nations represent 80% of the world's PV demand. 

Although not quite a major player in the demand side, China is firmly entrenched as the leading producer of solar cells.  Boasting the two largest solar cell manufacturing companies in the world -- Suntech Power (NYSE: STP) and JA Solar (Nasdaq: JASO) -- China saw its market share of global solar cell production increase from 49% in 2009 to 59% in 2010. 

What is even more staggering about China's production growth is that it was able to grow along side a massive boom in global production.  Last year, the manufacturing of solar cells increased more than 100%, growing from 9.86 GW in 2009 to 20.5 GW in 2010.

In Solarbuzz's opinion, policy will remain the chief determiner of growth in the solar market.  With governments reigning in subsidies and feed-in tariffs, the company expects some markets, especially those in Europe, to decline in the short-term. 

Nevertheless, Craig Stevens, President of Solarbuzz says there are several countries that offer growth potential regardless of the circumstances:  "While some key markets will decline in size over the next two years, the U.S., Canada, China, and Japan are some of the major countries that still offer growth potential.  In addition, the rush to beat mid-year tariff reductions will ensure strong first half 2011 demand in Italy and Germany."

Photo by dynamix