While it didn’t grow as fast as the previous year, global PV cell production still grew and hit a considerable 37.2 GW in 2011, 36% more than the 27.4 GW produced in 2010.
While that 36% growth may still sounds like a lot, and it is, it’s quite a bit less than the 120% growth spurt in the sector in 2010, PHOTON International notes in its discussion of its annual survey. Going even further, it notes that “the 2011 cell output was the PV industry’s lowest growth rate since a 34-percent increase in 2003.”
Other findings include:
- Asian companies continue to dominate the sector, with 6 of the top 10 producers coming out of China and 2 out of Taiwan.
- The top solar cell producer for the 2nd year in a row was Suntech Power.
- This is the first year that there wasn’t a European or Japanese company in the top 10.
- The remaining two solar cell producers are from the U.S., First Solar and SunPower. While they are likely to remain in the top 10 in 2012, it’s projected they will fall a bit on the ladder and move more production to Asia.
- “In 2008, only 33 percent of solar cells were made in China, a share that grew to an impressive over 57 percent in 2011.”
“The days of solar cell production in western countries are numbered,” says Michael Schmela, editor-in-chief of PHOTON International. “Like other commodities, solar cell production will continue its rapid shift to low-labor-cost countries in Asia, especially China.”
Not everyone has come to that conclusion yet. I’ve seen word that some Chinese companies, following the introduction of new tariffs on imports, are looking to move solar production to the U.S., the #1 country for solar energy investment attractiveness according to Ernst & Young. Though, that is yet to be confirmed.
Despite plenty of supply and some inevitable cuts in demand in some leading solar countries, solar cell production is still projected to increase considerably in 2012.
“Cell producers are still predicting a combined production of around 52.5 GW in 2012 — a 41-percent growth year-on-year. Overall, they are planning to increase capacities by 19 percent to around 69 GW in 2012, after raising capacity by 57 percent to nearly 58 GW by the end of 2011.”