Japan slips, China/TW/US climb in PV ranks

July 22, 2009 – The global breadth suppliers of photovoltaic cells and panels continued to ploy out in 2008, as several competitors across the globe continue to push past Japan’s major suppliers who once held the lion’s share of the market, according to data from IC Insights.

Sharp, the No. 1 PV device supplier for years, was overtaken in 2007 by both Q-Cells and Suntech Power Holdings. In 2008 it was US-based First Solar who “blew past both Sharp and Suntech” with its cadmium telluride (CdTe)-based thin-film panels — its sales more than doubled (144%) launching it to the No. 2 position, the firm notes in a new report, “Solar Energy: Growth Opportunities for the Semiconductor Industry”.

Top 10 photovoltaic device suppliers in 2008, cell and thin-film panels. (Source: IC Insights, company reports)
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Other notable climbers in the list came from China (JA Solar +109% sales growth, and Yingli Green Energy +93% growth) and Taiwan (Motech 67% growth, Gintech 144% growth). JA Solar and Gintech are solely involved in solar cell production, following the business model of Q-Cells which is diversifying beyond pure-play PV cell manufacturing, the report notes. Other suppliers in the top 10 ranks are involved in everything from panel manufacturing to system installations and other aspects of the solar value chain.

Solar World, No. 10 on the list, is a German company that actually is the biggest PV cell manufacturer in the US, after expanding operations in Hillsboro, OR. And SunPower, a US-based cell manufacturer who makes cells out of the Philippines, barely missed the top 10 list in 2008.

Don’t count Sharp out just yet, though. The IC Insights report, penned by Jeremy Young, notes that Sharp has “extremely ambitious plans” to expand its capacity for silicon-based thin-film panels, and “could quickly make up for lost ground.”

The rankings are based on the peak-MW value of the PV devices produced and sold by each supplier, including PV cells and also panels (for thin-film vendors) — but not cell-based panels, in order to avoid double-counting, the firm notes.


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