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Asia Growth, Mega-Deals Define 2012's Top Solar PV EPC Firms

First Solar completed over 500 megawatts (MW) of solar PV projects in 2012, nabbing the top spot among worldwide solar PV integrator/EPC firms (engineering, procurement and construction), according to IHS/IMS Research, which tracks more than 600 EPC firms and nearly 10,000 projects.

Not surprisingly, increased solar energy adoption in Asia is manifesting in these EPC rankings. The firm's 2011 findings showed a number of big gains by Chinese integrators. For 2012, Chinese firms took four of the top 10 spots and eight in the top 30. The Chinese market "continues to grow rapidly" with massive domestic demand for ground-mount projects — and its EPC segment, thanks in part to links to state-owned utilities, "remains largely impenetrable to foreign firms," noted Ash Sharma, senior director of solar research at IHS.

Also illustrating regional growth is India's Larsen & Toubro, which completed an estimated 200 MW of projects in 2012, nearly double what it accomplished the year before. India massively ramped up its solar capacity in 2012 to nearly 1 GW, and will probably top that in 2013.

The emergence of multimegawatt-scale projects continues to influence EPC ranking as well, as firms can quickly ascend this list with just one or two projects. Case in point: First Solar's EPC completion rose 50 percent from last year, thanks in part to its Topaz and Agua Caliente projects, notes Sharma. SunEdison also got a boost in the rankings from large-scale projects.

 

World PV system integrator/EPC market rankings in 2012. (Source: IHS/IMS Research)

Overall, most solar PV EPC firms are still in Europe (and particularly Germany), representing eleven of the top 30 EPCs and installing a collective 2 GW of new capacity in 2012. Still, that's down from 24 of the top 30 PV system integrators in 2011, and seven of the top 10 in 2010. And that also shows how fragmented the EPC landscape is, Sharma noted: the top 30 EPC firms represented just 24 percent of the overall market, the same as last year.

One more thing to remember about these EPC rankings: by definition they are the completion of projects in development for years in some cases, so companies must simultaneously race to restock their pipelines. First Solar signed a few PPAs in 2012 and purchased a couple of projects (Macho Springs and Campo Verde), but it "did not announce one new project sale in 2012," points out Aaron Chew from Maxim Group. "New awards are going to traditional EPC companies for the most part." Swinerton is an example of that.

Lead image: Mechanical digger with construction worker, via Shutterstock

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