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Asia solar firms dominate top 10 PV ranking

Posted: 27 Jul 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar? photovoltaic? PV panels?

The top 10 solar companies in 2008 come from around the globe, with three companies from China, two each from Germany, Japan and Taiwan, and one from the United States. This is according to the report Solar Energy: Growth Opportunities for the Semiconductor Industry, from IC Insights.

Until 2006, Sharp Corp. was the leading photovoltaic (PV) device supplier. In 2007, Germany's Q-Cells AG and China's Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd overtook Sharp. In 2008, First Solar gained on Sharp and Suntech with its thin-film PV panels made with cadmium telluride. The rankings by IC Insights are based on the peak-megawatt value of the PV devices produced and sold by each supplier. These include PV cells and thin-film PV panels. Cell-based panels are not included to avoid counting cells twice.

In 2008, First Solar's megawatt TF panel sales increased 144 percent, boosting it to the No. 2 position. But it may not hold the spot long, as Sharp is planning extremely ambitious expansion of its capacity to manufacture and sell silicon-based TF panels over the near term.

Aside from Sharp, other Japan suppliers were pushed down, and even out of the list. Kyocera Corp. went down from No. 5 to No. 6 in 2008. Sanyo, from No. 7 in the 2007 ranking didn't make it this year. Mitsubishi also dropped in the ranking.

Very small increments separate many of the top players, so the rankings are very changeable. The top four suppliers all achieved market shares based on megawatt sales between 8 to 9.5 percent. A second tier of suppliers was formed by those ranked No. 5 through No. 10, all having between 4 percent and 5 percent market share, and with several additional suppliers close on their heels. It is entirely possible for a supplier to move quickly from the second tier to the first, as First Solar demonstrated in 2008.

On the way up
Other PV companies climbing the ranks were based in China or Taiwan. Although China's Suntech slipped from No. 2 to No. 3 on megawatt growth below that of the total global industry, JA Solar Holdings Co. Ltd rose from No. 10 to No. 7 in the ranking based on 109 percent growth in megawatt sales in 2008. Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd advanced from ninth place to eighth on the strength of 93 percent growth.

In Taiwan, Motech Industries Inc. swapped seats with Kyocera, moving from No. 6 to No. 5 thanks to a 67 percent increase in megawatt sales. But perhaps more impressive was the performance of Gintech Energy Corp., which equaled First Solar's growth of 144 percent in megawatt sales in 2008, pulling itself up from No. 12 to No. 8 in the ranking.

Gintech, like JA Solar, makes solar cells only; these two companies follow the business model of top-ranked Q-Cells, which has only recently started to diversify beyond pure-play PV cell manufacturing. Other suppliers in the top 10 are involved in panel manufacturing, system installations, and other aspects of the solar value chain.

At the bottom of the list is No. 10 Solar World AG, a German company that holds the distinction of being the biggest manufacturer of PV cells in the United States, thanks to the recent expansion of its plant in Hillsboro, Oregon. A U.S.-headquartered cell manufacturer, SunPower Corp., almost made it into the top 10 in 2008, but SunPower manufactures its cells in plants in the Philippines.

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