Asia Continues to Dominate Solar Module Output

First Solar and a host of Chinese firms continued to dominate solar module manufacturing in 2011, jockeying over the same positions for more than a year now, according to data from Lux Research.

The six biggest suppliers — thin-film leader First Solar, China’s Suntech-Yingli-Trina solar triumvirate, Canadian Solar, and Japan’s Sharp — each exceeded a gigawatt (GW) of production output, and collectively pumped out well more than 9 GW of solar panels last year, the analyst firm says. The top 10 module suppliers as a whole tallied about 12.5 GW of output, amounting to nearly half (44 percent) of the total global module production.

Top 10 2011 solar module manufacturers in 2011, in megawatts and percent of global production. (Source: Lux Research)

Top ten 2011 solar module manufacturers in 2011, in megawatts and percent of global production. (Source: Lux Research)

Moving up the list and worth noting, says Lux analyst Fatima Toor, are Japan’s Sharp and South Korea’s Hanwha, where interest in renewable energy has accelerated because of both the Fukushima nuclear disaster one year ago and increased competition from regional rival China. “Expect to see a major rise in market share from Japanese and Korean suppliers, while European module manufacturers struggle with financial woes and reduced government incentives for solar in Europe,” she says in a statement.

Another interesting exercise is comparing these numbers for solar module manufacturing output with numbers showing companies’ module manufacturing capacity (via Solarplaza). The differences illustrate who has factory capabilities that they’re not using, and in some cases it’s striking. LDK and Sharp, for example, would each seem to have more than 1.5GW of idled factory capacity.

 Estimated module production capacity in 2011. (Source: Solarplaza)

Estimated module production capacity in 2011. (Source: Solarplaza)

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Jim is Contributing Editor for, covering the solar and wind beats. He previously was associate editor for Solid State Technology and Photovoltaics World, and has covered semiconductor manufacturing and related industries, renewable energy and industrial lasers since 2003. His work has earned both internal awards and an Azbee Award from the American Society of Business Press Editors. Jim has 17 years of experience in producing websites and e-Newsletters in various technology markets.

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