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As Companies Jockey to be Number One, Global Solar PV Pipeline is Exploding

Last year Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar vowed that it would be the number one solar engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) provider in the global PV industry. The company delivered on that promise, installing 1.1 GW of solar capacity in 2013, up from 516 MW the year before. But 2014 will have a different frontrunner according to new data. Chinese EPC TBEA SunOasis, the number two installer in 2013, is set to install more solar capacity in 2014 than First Solar. All of this is contained in a new report out from IHS Technology.

According to IHS, First Solar could install as much as 1.3 GW of solar capacity this year, even more than last year.  But TBEA SunOasis could install up to 1.5 GW of solar capacity to help meet China’s growing appetite for solar energy.

“After a strong year of installing 22 percent of the non-residential PV capacity in the U.S. and Canada, First Solar remains focused on North America,” said Josefin Berg, senior analyst for solar demand at IHS. “Large-scale projects in the U.S. will make up around 93 percent of the 1.3 GW worth of additions in 2014.” 

These projects, Berg said, were acquired in early-stage development and are now being constructed and sold primarily under U.S. investment tax-credit policies. To mitigate the risks that arise from dependence on one market, First Solar is building up a global project pipeline through acquisitions and joint ventures, with the company now also claiming 1-GW pipelines each in Latin America and the Middle East.

“After 2015, depending on the evolution of solar support in the United States, First Solar risks slower growth in PV system integration,” Berg noted. “And while the development pipeline in emerging countries has given the company a good start, it will be much more challenging to pursue than home-based projects in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, TBEA SunOasis is thriving on China’s rapidly growing domestic market, and its installations of 1.0 GW in 2013 accounted for 10 percent of that country’s non-residential PV additions. This year, the power equipment manufacturing group will continue growing its PV systems business, with expected additions to reach as high as 1.5 GW. While focusing on utility-scale opportunities in China, TBEA is also involved in power projects in markets such as Pakistan, where it is undertaking the construction of a 100-MW PV plant in 2014 and 2015.

“TBEA’s global reach as a power equipment provider opens up possibilities for EPC contracts in new PV markets,” Berg remarked. “But because the Chinese domestic market will grow by 31 percent this year, TBEA is also set to keep its systems business growth focused on China.”

Global PV Project Pipeline at 140 GW and Growing

The IHS Global PV Project Database, which consists of nearly 30,000 projects, shows that the global PV pipeline has now reached 140 GW, up 5 GW since February 2014. Of the 140 GW in the pipeline, 21 GW are either under construction or have signed power purchase agreements (PPA), with the remaining projects at various levels of planning. Of course, many of those project won’t be built, said Berg.  “Developers have to compete for PPAs, grid access, permits, and not least—financing.” 

With 34 GW of announced projects in planning and 5 GW under construction, North America boasts the largest PV pipeline. This is due to both the large number of projects involved and the size of the projects proposed. The average size of the projects in the database equates to more than 25 MW, with over 80 projects that are 100 MW or larger in development.

Latin America, meanwhile, has the largest pipeline of PV projects in comparison to its installed capacity, with nearly 15 GW of projects in development. This includes a pipeline of more than 4 GW in Brazil and 7.5 GW in Chile.                 

The IHS Global PV Project Database also currently includes more than 29,000 non-residential PV projects across the world totalling 175 GW. The projects cover those that are in development, are under construction or have been completed.

The tables show both the global ranking of solar system integrators and the global PV pipeline by region.

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