Sharp Solar Returns To #1 PV Module Supplier Position, Still Expecting 2014 Loss

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After a five year absence, Sharp Solar has returned to the top of the solar PV module shipment rankings during the first quarter of 2014, according to the latest findings from the NPD Solarbuzz Module Tracker Quarterly report.

According to NPD Solarbuzz, Sharp was the PV industry’s market leader for 45 years — between 1963 and 2008 — before it started losing out to increased manufacturing capacity in China and some big US players. Since then, First Solar and several Chinese-based solar PV suppliers have dominated the rankings.

Until now.

“The first quarter this year was the first time a non-Chinese module supplier has taken the leading position in the solar PV industry since the fourth quarter of 2009,” said to Ray Lian, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz. “Sharp Solar benefited from seasonally strong end-market demand in Japan, and the ability to quickly increase shipment volumes through a flexible strategy of using outsourced supply from China and Taiwan.”

sharp volume
Sharp’s Solar Shipment Volume and Rank
Image Credit: NPD Solarbuzz

Sharp had previously pursued a “vertically integrated strategy, manufacturing its own solar cells and modules,” said NPD Solarbuzz, but has since turned to relying on outsourced partners.

“Sharp’s success in the first quarter of this year confirms the value of brand-recognition within the PV industry,” Lian said. “It also shows the viability of the so-called ‘fab-lite’ model, in which either internal manufacturing capacity or outsourced supply can be managed effectively to address short-term opportunities. The fab-lite model is now used by several of the leading vertically-integrated companies in the PV industry.”

However, according to an article published by Bloomberg on Saturday, Sharp is expecting lower sales and a loss at its solar unit this fiscal year, due to cost pressures, a drop in overseas projects, and slower sales to the Japanese residential market. While its sales soared to over $4 billion in 2013, nearly 69% ahead of guidance, the unit’s loss is expected to reach $49 million for the year ending March 31, according to a statement from the company.

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6 thoughts on “Sharp Solar Returns To #1 PV Module Supplier Position, Still Expecting 2014 Loss

  • Sharp outsourced production and still made a loss? Its suppliers must be rubbing their hands in glee to have such a customer. Its rivals won’t be worried.

    • I don’t think Sharp would pay its suppliers any more than other foreign PV manufacturers would, although I could be wrong about this. Sharp is outsourcing and running a loss in its PV sector so it can produce more solar panels under the Sharp name which will appeal to brand conscious Japanese purchasers and I think their competitors might be concerned about not getting a share of the expanding Japanese PV market as a result of this.

      • $49million on $4B in ales, so the margin is -1%. That could well be considered worthwhile in order to achieve other longerterm goals.

  • Manufacturing solar PV is now like manufacturing steel or concrete. Profit margins are never very high in manufacturing commodities, the real money is in developing projects and what innovative things you can do with said commodity.

  • Sharp and others are doing r&d with multi junction cells and I’d like to know more about eventual cost to customer and/or whether it is a realistic factor for their future. The demonstrated efficiencies for Sharp’s 3 junction/non concentrator cells are appx 38.8%. It’s impressive.
    They wouldn’t be outsourcing r&d.

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