Clean Power

Published on September 6th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


First Solar & Sharp The Lone Non-Chinese Solar Module Leaders

September 6th, 2013 by  

It’s no secret, Chinese solar module manufacturers have come along and dominated the solar module market. In 2012, according to IHS, six out of the top ten solar module manufacturers were Chinese companies, including #1 Yingli Green Energy.

Now, a recent Solarbuzz report found that Chinese solar module manufacturers led shipments of solar modules in seven out of ten geographic regions. The only non-Chinese companies to lead a region were US-based First Solar (in the US and India) and Japan-based Sharp (in Japan). Yingli was 31 in Europe, China, and Latin America + Caribbean. Suntech was #1 in the Middle East + Africa and in “Other Asia.” Trina Solar was #1 in Australia. And Canadian Solar was #1 in Canada.

top solar pv manufacturers

Here are some more comments from Solarbuzz:

According to the latest NPD Solarbuzz Module Tracker Quarterly report:

  • Only First Solar (with leading market-share in the U.S. and India) and Sharp (with leading share in Japan) are preventing Chinese suppliers from dominating in all global regions.

  • Up to 2005, Western and Japanese solar manufacturers dominated the supplier rankings lists within the solar PV industry.

  • Chinese Tier 1 suppliers, Yingli, Suntech, Trina, and Canadian Solar hold the leading positions across seven of the 10 key regions.

  • Within China, the largest market for 2013, Chinese suppliers command almost 100% market share. Just three companies, Yingli, Jinko Solar, and Hareon Solar have supplied over one-quarter of the modules to the Chinese market over the past twelve months.

  • Within the emerging regions of Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, and Emerging Asia, there has been strong competition from Western and Japanese suppliers, including Conergy, Sharp, REC Solar, SolarWorld, and Kyocera.

  • Other Chinese Tier 1 suppliers, Jinko Solar, Renesola, JA Solar, and Hanwha SolarOne are seeing increased market share across almost all geographic regions in 2013.

Of course, China has cheaper labor than the US, Germany, Japan, and many other countries. As is now well known, the Chinese government has also helped out its solar producers by feeding them handsome servings of subsidies. But the long and short of it is: as with many other things, China has come to dominate the solar module manufacturing sector. Will that change? Or will China solidify its stronghold on this market?

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • sambar

    So, isn’t Canadian Solar, a non Chinese manufacturer, a leader in it’s territory?

    • gib

      “Chinese Tier 1 suppliers, Yingli, Suntech, Trina, and Canadian Solar hold the leading positions across seven of the 10 key regions” -> despite the name, Canadian Solar is a chinese company

      • sirplus

        German Brand inverters made in India.
        Canadian Solar made in China.

        I think this is misleading though indubitably the way the world is going.
        Aside from being misleading it’s probably ok as long as there is quality and consistency, how are those things guaranteed apart from desire to build a long term good reputation?

  • Ronald Brakels

    Maintaining position in the solar module market is a Red Queen race. You have to run as fast as you can just to stay where you are. Unit cost advantage goes to whoever as the newest production line so there is nothing about the current Chinese position that guarantees that they will lead in the future. Of course experience and low capital costs helps, so they may dominate the market for some time, but it’s definitely not a sure thing.

  • shecky vegas

    Will China’s dominance in the labor market change? Probably not. As long as they have abundant slave labor, with no safety or environmental oversight, the greedheads at Wall Street will continue to pour money and contracts down China’s gullet.

    • Bob_Wallace

      China doesn’t use slaves to manufacture solar panels. China’s labor costs are rising and they are improving their environmental problems.

      China dominates the solar market mainly through more efficient manufacturing and better financing options.

      Solar panels have a low labor input and plants are becoming more automated. Shipping costs are rising. At some point it will make sense to manufacture closer to point of use than to ship.

      Solar is in the early stages of a massive boom. It won’t be long before new plants will be needed to keep up with demand. I’m expecting manufacturing to grow in Europe, North America and South America. It may be Chinese companies opening plants outside of China, but it’s almost certain to happen.

    • Ronald Brakels

      I just have to jump on the pile and also say that’s silly, Shecky. Have you been to China lately? While the average Chinese citizen is sorely lacking in essentials such as Justin Bieber merchandise, they are not living like slaves. Go to rural areas and see 12 year old children towering over their parents and you’ll realise that China has come a long way.

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