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Asian companies seek solar cell crown

Posted: 23 Feb 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:photovoltaic? PV? solar power? market report?

Electronics companies in Asia are taking over the photovoltaic cell market, with Samsung and LG getting into the action, reports IMS Research. The analyst forecasts that Asia's share of PV cell production will reach nearly 85 percent by the end of 2011. Despite fears of a module oversupply, the two companies and other Taiwan and Korea suppliers have recently revealed expansion plans for their solar business segments.

The analyst predicts an oversupply of PV modules in 2011 following the PV cell and module capacity increases undertaken in 2010 to meet the demand in major European markets, together with lower incentive rates and the slowing of installation growth. Small Tier 2 suppliers are predicted to be most affected, with larger Tier 1 suppliers still able to sell the majority of their products.

Still, the long-term outlook is positive, and IMS Research sees total industry demand continuing to grow at double-digit rates on average for the next 4 years.

IMS Research predicts that the most successful of the new entrants will be the CE manufacturers. The analyst highlights AUO Optronics, a Taiwan supplier most known for its FPDs, and which has broken ground on a 1.4GW cell production joint venture with SunPower. Also, Samsung has announced a joint-venture producing polysilicon with MEMC, further expanding its activities in the solar industry. And Taiwan Semiconductor, although not a CE company, has revealed plans to begin offering both thin film and crystalline modules, following its investments and partnerships with Motech, Stion and Centrosolar.

"The expertise of these large Asian suppliers at large-scale production in similar fields and their willingness and ability to invest significant capital is likely to mean that they are able to quickly reach low-cost and high-volume production, and they certainly have the potential to be serious competition for today's market leaders within a few years," commented Sam Wilkinson, PV research analyst, IMS Research. "Many suppliers are currently experiencing a lull in shipments, and it is likely that demand may remain weak until later in the year."

PV cell production in Asia

Figure 1: Asian companies are taking over the photovoltaic cell market.

"The entrance of a number of large electronics suppliers which will offer competitively-priced PV components is likely to add some further obstacles for existing suppliers in an already volatile market," added Wilkinson.

IMS Research estimates that nearly 80 percent of PV modules were produced in Asia in 2010 and predicts this figure will continue to rise in the future.

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