PV cell manufacturers on the annual top ten list have shifted places, dropped on and off the list, withdraw from production, re-entered production and declared bankruptcy. Currently, crystalline manufacturers are adding more module assembly capacity than cell processing capacity while thin film manufacturers are expanding into crystalline production.
As an example, Sharp Solar (Japan) was the top PV manufacturer in terms of shipments from 2001 through 2007, the longest period for any single manufacturer. Sharp Solar is one of the PV industry’s pioneers in crystalline and amorphous silicon technology. As with other manufacturers from other countries, for a period it priced aggressively to gain share. As with manufacturers from China, it could rely on its home market (Japan) to absorb module product in the years when Japan’s market for PV deployment was almost completely closed to outside manufacturers.
As Chinese manufacturers ramped up and the cost of polysilicon increased significantly, Sharp made a misstep into thin films that never reaped the hoped for benefits. Now that Sharp has been acquired by Foxconn, it is highly unlikely that its parent will invest sufficient funds for the company to regain share.
Figure 1 presents the top ten manufacturers for 2015 based on 2015 shipments.
Figure 1: Top Ten Photovoltaic Manufacturers 2015
Table 1 presents technology focus (thin film and/or crystalline), cell/thin film manufacturing location, module assembly capacity and cell/thin film manufacturing capacity for the top ten manufacturers of 2015. In 2015, the top ten manufacturers had 46 percent of global module assembly capacity and 42 percent of cell/thin film manufacturing capacity.
The top ten manufacturers of 2015 are dominated by manufacturers based in China.
Table 1: Top Ten Manufacturer Technology Focus, Location, Module Assembly and Cell Capacity 2015*
Table 2 presents the top ten manufacturers from 2010 through 2015. This table puts industry manufacturing leadership over the past five years into perspective. Suntech was the leading manufacturer in 2010 and 2011 and declared bankruptcy in March 2013. In 4Q13, Shungfeng acquired Suntech’s assets and in 2015 bought a majority stake in U.S.-based Suniva.
Table 2: Top Ten Manufacturers, 2010 to 2015*
Figure 2 presents 2015 manufacturer shares of cell and module revenues for the top ten manufacturers. The top ten manufacturers of 2015 were responsible for 52 percent of in-house cell/module revenues. In-house revenues do not include sales of outsourced and rebranded sales and modules.
Figure 2: Top Ten Manufacturer Cell & Module Revenue Shares 2015
The annual top ten list of PV manufacturers is important not as a promotion of any particular manufacturer, but as a way to observe regional and technology trends overtime. The past does not lie; it can, however, be misinterpreted or data can be cherry picked to make a point not with which the whole tapestry of the past is in disagreement.
Manufacturers from China will continue to dominate the top ten list for the foreseeable future as its manufacturers ramp capacity in other countries, including the U.S. and Mexico.
Lead image: Solar panel. Credit: Shutterstock.
Which regions of the world are producing the most modules and where are those modules being used? A tricky question that is answered in Paula Mints’ Annual Photovoltaic Manufacturer Shipment report, which you can purchase here.