Belgium’s 2011 PV market beats previous record year 2009

Paul Boughton

2011 proved to be a new record year for the Belgian solar PV market, with over 687 MW of new installations nationwide and an accumulated capacity of 1.669 MW by the end of the year.

This growth can primarily be related to the Flanders region, accounting for 86 per cent of the growth in capacity, but has also taken shape in Wallonia (<14 per cent) and Brussels (<0.2 per cent).
In contrast to fears that the PV market in Belgium would be negatively impacted by a series of green certificate value digressions in Flanders, the year saw the installation of a large number of PV modules. Volumes recorded by VREG rose fast, with a preliminary record of 163.4MW for installations larger than 10kW in June, just prior to the July 1 digression (certificate value becoming €300/MWh, installations >250kW €240). VREG reported a near record number of 6,410 requests for small installations that were almost immediately approved in that month.

Registered residential capacity grew considerably, in particular in the second half of 2011. On average, over 7.700 new installations (max. 10kW) per month were recorded during that period, with an average new volume of over 39MW/month. The share of this market segment increased in total volume from 45 per cent (2010) to 64 per cent (2011).

A preliminary 2011 record volume of 592,3 MW new capacity was registered by VREG in their last update, including 76.508 new entries, with 208 over 250 kW. That is 76 per cent over the adjusted volume for 2009 (454.2MW). Market segmentation was 379.0MW up to 10kW (system average app. 5kW/installation), 65.0MW entries between 10 and 250kW (11 per cent), and 146.3MW for the largest installations of above 250kW (25 per cent). For the latter two categories, 660 and 208 new entries were recorded in 2011 (entries may be segments of larger projects).

The biggest new projects recorded were the 4.1MW 'solar tunnel' above the high-speed train track northeast of Antwerp; a 4.5MW/36 hectare 'solar parking' at Hödlmayr’s in Tongeren; and The Benelux’s largest project, a 6.2MW free-field installation at Nyrstar in Overpelt. ING Equipment Lease’s portfolio grew rapidly in 2011, now accumulating 66MW, with 166 projects (mostly large) sized 20-3.239kW. The Antwerp region east of the River Schelde has also seen some new large projects. Katoen Natie’s Loghidden City terminal (Schelde West Bank) remained the biggest single-site installation in The Benelux (27.9MW).

VREG updates in 2011 revealed a 170MW 'backlog' volume increase for 2010 since February 2011. It is therefore expected that much more capacity will be added to last year’s volume, possibly reaching 750MW in 2011, or more.

CWaPE reported strong growth in Wallonia, doubling from 83.3MW, cumulated from 21.233 installations of max. 10kW, originally reported at the end of 2010 to 181.6MW and 40.181 installations at the end of 2011 (growth without corrections: 97.8MW). At the end of January 2012, 90 installations larger than 10kW were recorded, with a capacity of 6.5MW (share 3.3 per cent of total accumulation; average 72kW/installation), which is increase of only 4.4MW (47 installations) since the end of 2010. Two new installations were implemented in Ghlin and Strépy-Bracquegnies, with a maximum size of 250 kW. Actual calendar year growth volume is not yet known. Apere estimated a year growth volume of 94 MW and 186 MW accumulation based on the status as at end September that year.

The 600 MW growth for Flanders and 880MW for Belgium mentioned by PV Vlaanderen’s CEO in a Solarplaza publication on the 20th of February do not match actual official data from the authorities. The first figure will most probably increase strongly; the latter does not match the current available statistics, in particular for Wallonia.

The last available data for Brussels (September 2011) shows a meagre growth of only 819kW (169 new installations) and an accumulated volume of 6.7MW (2.041 installations) as compared to data shown in the year 2010 report (accumulation 5.9MW, 1.872 installations). Apere estimated a yearly growth of only 1.1MW, accumulating volume to 7.0MW in 2011. Two new larger projects will change that only a slightly: 150kWp on Plastoria’s roof (realised end of 2011), and a planned 1,6 MW project on the TIR centre.

According to present data, Belgium had accumulated 1.669 MW end of 2011, with shares larger than 88 per cent for Flanders, over 11% for Wallonia, and 0.4 per cent for Brussels – with more volume yet to be added. Taking a conservative ratio (DC:AC = 1.1:1), 1.836MWp PV generator capacity could already have accumulated. Thus, an average 167Wp PV module could have been installed for each of Belgium’s 11 million inhabitants (EU27 average 2010: 59Wp).

In 2010, 595GWh of solar electricity was generated in Flanders, while a preliminary 1.2 TWh has been registered for 2011. During the freezing mid-winter conditions, as at January 27, 2012, between 4 and 8 per cent of Belgium's electricity consumption was covered by photovoltaic conversion of sunlight during the day.

Although green certificate value for PV projects larger than 250 kW has now dwindled to 90 Euros in Flanders, and large projects seem to have come to a standstill, the residential and commercial sector still look promising, with low module prices. How much volume that will generate in the crisis year 2012 is hard to predict.

During The Solar Future: Belgium '12, the current status of Belgium's PV market will be further explained, analysed and interpreted - and its future mapped out – by a group of industry experts. This conference, which will take place on 28 March 2012 in Brussels, will provide a unique platform for national and international stakeholders and key players to meet, network and discuss the Belgian solar market. For more information on the event and registration for the conference, please visit

Fig. 1. Capacity additions per market segment (Flanders) and region in Belgium per year, in MWac. Status as at end of February 2012. Inset: Cumulative volumes per region. Note that volumes may increase with new reports, in particular for Flanders in 2011.

Fig. 2. Segmentation of the large >10 kWac PV market in Flanders. Number of entries (green columns, left Y axis) and accumulated capacity (MWac) per segment (red/yellow columns, right Y axis). Status as at February 1, 2012 (VREG).

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