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First Solar Top Module Supplier, Ships 1-GW in 2009

Thin-film solar module manufacturer, First Solar topped the rankings list for PV module suppliers in 2009, surpassing all of its crystalline rivals to ship more than a gigawatt (GW) of modules and become the industry's largest supplier, according to the latest analysis from IMS Research.

Although, the top ten suppliers that feature in IMS Research's rankings did not change in 2009, the previous year’s leader, Suntech, fell to second place, followed once again by Sharp in third. No other supplier came even close to the growth that First Solar saw in 2009 in terms of megawatts, but Trina Solar climbed two places, increasing its annual shipments by nearly 90%.

All three of the Japanese suppliers in the top ten, Sharp, Kyocera and Sanyo, lost places compared to 2008 and for the first time, modules sold by U.S.-based suppliers exceeded those from Japanese suppliers.

“2009 was an incredible year for PV module suppliers, with the top ten companies’ shipments growing by 75%. This is an amazing result given how poor the outlook had looked just over one year ago,” said Sam Wilkinson, a research analyst with IMS Research’s PV group. “Although many others did not share in this success, this measure alone is an indicator that the PV module market grew far more than had been expected in 2009, with shipments far exceeding installations.”

Although 7.5 GW of installations were completed and connected in 2009, IMS Research estimates that shipments of PV modules were far higher. Shipments exceeded installations due to the record amount of modules shipped in the final quarter of the year to serve installations completed in the first quarter of 2010 in booming European markets such as Germany, Italy, France and Czech Republic.

On April 9, the German Federal Network Agency finally released its December figures for new PV installations confirming IMS Research's earlier predictions that the German market grew massively in 2009 to reach 3.8 GW, and in fact the global PV market saw double-digit growth. Despite the upcoming cut to Germany’s FIT, IMS Research still forecasts the global PV market will grow in 2010, up to 10 GW in terms of new installations with strong demand coming from many different countries.

Data from the latest Solarbuzz Quarterly report, confirmed IMS' findings. According to that report, Germany accounted for 63% of global demand in fourth quarter and in Q4 the PV market reached a record high. That quarter represented 3.73 GW of the 7 GW and was more than seven times larger than in the first quarter of 2009. Italy and the Czech Republic with their generous FITs also played a large part in the Q4 market.

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