Japan to become world's largest solar power market in 2013: survey

Japan is expected to become the world's largest solar energy market this year, with the installation of new solar power systems more than doubling capacity, a recent report by a U.S. research firm showed.

Japan's solar power market is forecast to reach $19.8 billion (1.91 trillion yen) in 2013, surpassing Germany which has been the biggest market from 2009 to 2012, according to the report by IHS Inc.

The estimated generation capacity of 5.3 gigawatts to be added this year roughly equals the output of five nuclear reactors.

While the 6.8 gigawatts worth of new solar power systems projected in China this year exceeds that of Japan, the high price of equipment is expected to make Japan the largest market in terms of value, the report said.

Use of solar power has accelerated in Japan after the so-called feed-in tariff scheme for renewable energy was introduced in July 2012 after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 led to the closure of nuclear power plants and a shortage of electricity.

In the first quarter of this year alone, a total of 1.5 gigawatts worth of solar power systems were newly installed in Japan, up from 0.4 gigawatt during the same period last year, while installations in Europe including Germany declined by 34 percent due partly to falling prices at which power firms can sell electricity generated by solar power, IHS said.

Global suppliers in the solar power industry are attracted to the Japanese market, but Japanese firms continue to dominate the market of residential systems, which account for nearly 40 percent of systems demand in the country, as consumers have a strong preference for domestic brands, IHS said.