Guest Blog

  • PERC

    PERC capacity hits 2.5GW and offers new technology buy cycle option

    By Finlay Colville - 14 August 2014, 15:30 | 1

    Previously confined to the R&D labs and academic solar PV roadmaps, PERC based c-Si cell capacity upgrades are starting to have a tangible impact on the PV industry. Finlay Colville investigates the drivers, myths, opportunities and the impact of PERC on PV capex and module performance.

  • Google's inverter challenge could upset the established supplier base

    Why Google’s ‘little box’ could challenge inverter world order

    By Cormac Gilligan - 25 July 2014, 09:16 | 2

    Google is offering a prize for prototype inverter that’s smaller than a laptop. Cormac Gilligan of IHS explains why a successful proposal could pose a threat to existing suppliers.

  • Crystalline silicon cell

    Case study of a growth driver – silver use in solar

    By Chris Berry - 21 July 2014, 10:01

    Silver is a key raw material in PV manufacturing. But as Chris Berry writes, a deficit in global silver supply and the prospect of future price increases are both sources of concern for the solar industry.

  • Solar inverter

    The changing face of the PV inverter supplier base

    By Sam Wilkinson - 14 July 2014, 11:08

    Ahead of a free webinar from IHS Technology and PV Tech on 29 July 2014, IHS analyst Sam Wilkinson discusses some of key trends shaping the global inverter market.

  • Polysilicon

    Falling polysilicon production costs a double-edged sword

    By Charles Annis - 12 May 2014, 09:13

    Driven mainly by expectations of strong end-market demand growth this year, polysilicon spot prices increased significantly in Q1’14, up 15% Q/Q and 28% Y/Y. In Q2’14, spot prices are expected to remain relatively flat – or to decline moderately – as more polysilicon makers ramp-up production, in an effort to take advantage of the current price environment.

  • Lightsource

    Germany to be displaced as number one European PV market in 2014

    By Finlay Colville - 22 April 2014, 13:47

    The UK is set to become the largest market for solar PV in Europe during 2014, confirming its status as the hottest market across the region.

  • Hanergy comparison

    First Solar and Hanergy Solar: different strategies but overlapping thin-film dreams

    By Finlay Colville - 31 March 2014, 12:44 | 5

    During the past couple of weeks, two of the leading custodians of thin-film solar PV technology have restated or amended long-term industry plans. Finlay Colville assesses the future for thin-film PV technology

  • Roth & Rau facility

    Meyer Burger de-books US$240 million as timing of new wafer capex remains uncertain

    By Finlay Colville - 20 March 2014, 13:03

    The uptick in solar end-market demand at the end of 2013 has been followed by new wave of PV cell and module capex. The missing part of the equation is spending on new wafer capacity, writes Finlay Colville.

  • Consolidation figures

    Solar PV consolidation: fact or fiction?

    By Finlay Colville - 19 March 2014, 11:22

    Consolidation has been one of the most heavily used words in the PV industry over the past couple of years. But as Finlay Colville writes, whether it has actually happened or not is open to debate.

  • Further upside to the rooftop market is expected to be driven by Lightsource’s recent acquisition of Renewable Resources

    NPD Solarbuzz upgrades UK PV market to 2.5GW in 2014

    By Finlay Colville - 11 March 2014, 12:21

    Following the latest round of downstream channel checks and project pipeline activity in the UK, NPD Solarbuzz is now further upgrading its forecast for the UK PV market in 2014.

  • Solar trade

    Harsh reality of the post Brussels/Beijing anti-dumping agreement

    By Finlay Colville - 10 March 2014, 10:27

    The compromised solution agreed between Brussels and Beijing for the supply of Chinese solar PV components to Europe is approaching its anniversary. Finlay Colville looks at how the deal has panned out.

  • FBR polysilicon technology – promise or hype?

    By Johannes Bernreuter - 07 March 2014, 14:56 | 2

    The recent announcement by US manufacturer REC Silicon that it would establish a new polysilicon plant has highlighted an upcoming trend in the polysilicon industry: the rise of fluidised bed reactor (FBR) technology. Will it live up to expectation, asks Johannes Bernreuter.

  • HelioVolt

    HelioVolt exit from PV manufacturing highlights failed US PV manufacturing strategy

    By Finlay Colville - 25 February 2014, 12:33 | 3

    The news today that HelioVolt – one of the few remaining custodians of US based PV manufacturing – will cease operations is terrible news for the 100-plus employees that have been working hard at HelioVolt to advance PV manufacturing in the US.

  • At the start of 2014, four groupings can be used to understand thin-film activity in the PV industry. Source: NPD Solarbuzz PV Equipment Qua

    Thin-film PV should now be as simple as ABCD

    By Finlay Colville - 11 February 2014, 17:37 | 1

    Recently, we prepared two exclusive blogs for PV-Tech that outlined what PV cell production and technologies looked like at the start of 2014: Can PV technology change before 2015? and What does NPD Solarbuzz’ solar cell rankings for 2013 reveal?

  • Taiwan cell trade figures

    Can the US solar industry afford to shut the door on Taiwan?

    By Finlay Colville - 06 February 2014, 14:27

    Does the US solar industry need Taiwan, more than Taiwan needs the US solar industry? This is perhaps one of the biggest questions to ask as the latest US ITC investigations gain traction. Finlay Colville offers some answers.

  • Solar PV technology changes in production between 2010 and 2013.

    Can PV technology change before 2015?

    By Finlay Colville - 04 February 2014, 12:06 | 1

    Around about this time each year, we have a closer look at the PV technologies that were used to make all the solar panels in 2013 that ended up being shipped through downstream channels.

  • NPD Solarbuzz: Only six of the top 10 solar PV module suppliers of 2013 feature in the top 10 cell production lists.

    What does NPD Solarbuzz’ solar cell rankings for 2013 reveal?

    By Finlay Colville - 29 January 2014, 11:40

    NPD Solarbuzz’s Finlay Colville looks at the top 10 cell producer rankings and asks what it tells us about what’s going on in the upper echelons of PV manufacturing.

  • IHS

    IHS: Why 2014 PV installation forecasts are all likely to be wrong

    By Ash Sharma - 28 January 2014, 10:25 | 1

    Each year forecasts for how much new PV capacity will be added around the world are released. These are subsequently revised, updated, defended and invariably increased. The forecasts for 2014 from various banks and research firms however are quite different. The difference between the high-end and the low-end of expectations is massive – potentially 15GW – or put another way nearly half the amount installed in total the previous year.

  • Hanergy’s plans appear to show the first signs of favouritism in the three-horse CIGS race between the subsidiaries of Solibro, Miasolé and

    Hanergy reveals phase one of its 5GW CIGS expansion plan

    By Finlay Colville - 27 January 2014, 12:12

    Having teased the PV equipment supply chain with its multi billion dollar thin-film CIGS capex plans, Hanergy has now revealed the first part of its plans.

  • Hanergy thin-film plant

    Hanergy bankrolls Apollo Solar to leading PV equipment supplier status for 2013

    By Finlay Colville - 21 January 2014, 10:00

    Apollo Solar – Hanergy’s PV equipment tool maker subsidiary – has become the clear leader for solar PV equipment revenues during 2013, according to new findings in the latest NPD Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly report. Previous leading rank companies of the PV equipment supply sector include Centrotherm, Applied Materials and Meyer Burger.

  • India solar

    India’s solar growing pains

    By Ritesh Pothan - 15 January 2014, 14:04 | 1

    After a mediocre 2013, India’s solar industry failed to get off to the positive start it was hoping for in 2014 when an auction under its national solar programme was delayed by a month. Ritesh Pothan sets out how India can avoid the mistakes of 2013 in 2014 and end this year on a firmer footing.

  • US large-scale

    Top 10 US states offer more than 40GW of solar PV pipeline capacity

    By Michael Barker - 14 January 2014, 12:26

    At the end of 2013 the USA’s top solar states had a non-residential PV pipeline of some 40GW. This means any PV company wanting to play on a global level must have a strategy for the US market, write Michael Barker and Christine Beadle.

  • Chinese PV manufacturing

    Global solar industry landscape may render US ITC findings superfluous

    By Finlay Colville - 09 January 2014, 13:59

    The US International Trade Commission’s latest trade investigation into Chinese PV manufacturers may be setting off some alarm bells, but what is needed is a good dose of global manufacturing reality to calm things down, says Finlay Colville.

  • Module manufacturing

    Top 10 PV module suppliers in 2013

    By Ray Lian - 08 January 2014, 11:48

    Based on existing company guidance and downstream channel checks - and supplemented by various estimates by company through to the end of 2013 - NPD Solarbuzz can now reveal the Top 10 PV module suppliers for 2013.

  • Adapted from the forthcoming NPD Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly report, the attached figure shows the real n-type c-Si trends (based on up

    Boost for made-in-USA advanced PV cell manufacturing

    By Finlay Colville - 30 December 2013, 16:25

    Having rebranded the Nexolon America operations in San Antonio, Texas, as Mission Solar Energy, the long-awaited rebound in US-based c-Si manufacturing has just received a significant boost; something that politicians and legislators in the US have been striving for ever since the high-profile demise of Solyndra.

  • Suntech cell line

    All eyes on Asia as new PV CapEx emerges, but rash spending history tempers optimism

    By Finlay Colville - 18 December 2013, 16:54

    Confidence is slowly returning to the PV manufacturing supply chain, as supply and demand get back in sync. But as the industry contemplates opening up the CapEx floodgates once more, Finlay Colville says it would do well not to forget the last PV gold rush.

  • Soitec modules

    How project bonds can help finance solar’s future

    By Holger Janke - 04 December 2013, 15:33

    With the cost of project finance in some emerging economies proving prohibitive, Holger Janke of solar manufacturer Soitec explains how project bonds could help fill the gap open up new markets.

  • The PV industry is flying high but what business models will work in the future?

    Solar PV in 2013: More diversification than consolidation

    By Finlay Colville - 04 December 2013, 09:54

    Benchmarking companies in the solar PV industry used to be straightforward. Some companies made key materials (polysilicon, wafers, cells, modules or thin-film panels); others bought and sold these locally or through the value chain. Then project developers and installers added inverters and mounting and built the PV systems. Customers typically released cash up-front, owned the systems outright and could then sit back and enjoy a revenue stream linked to a government incentive.

  • Martifer

    Ground-mount UK PV pipeline tops 4GW but planners will decide its fate

    By Finlay Colville - 25 November 2013, 13:08 | 2

    The UK has more than 4GW of PV projects in the pipeline but the majority is at the mercy of local planning authorities.

  • Figure 1: The top-11 Tier 1 Chinese manufacturers have maintained a market share at the 40% level during 2013 and are likely to retain this

    Solar PV module supply to Europe in 2014: Any cause for alarm?

    By Finlay Colville - 19 November 2013, 15:39

    Discussions of high average selling price (ASP) regions (such as Japan) and declining regional end-market pull (Europe) are currently in evidence during the round of Q3 reporting calls from public-listed module suppliers. The market size in Europe now and the pricing levels have become key issues, for Chinese and non-Chinese suppliers alike.

  • Figure 1: CIGS technologies used by the top-60 CIGS manufacturers over the last ten years confirm a preference for glass-based approaches, w

    Hanergy’s major CIGS plans unveiled with 5.25GW of turnkey capacity

    By Finlay Colville - 04 November 2013, 08:59 | 2

    Last week, Hanergy Solar Group Limited (Hanergy) provided the first glimpse of its strategy for its recent investments in thin-film CIGS production, having completed the acquisitions of previous CIGS hopefuls, Solibro, Miasolé and Global Solar.

  • NPD Solarbuzz has recently upgraded its annual forecast prediction for 2014 to 45-55 GW.

    Breaking the 50GW barrier in 2014: the dawn of a new solar PV landscape

    By Finlay Colville - 25 October 2013, 15:21 | 1

    Global PV demand during 2014 is set to represent a new phase of growth for the solar PV industry. Not just because end-market demand is now forecast by NPD Solarbuzz to grow significantly to reach 45-55GW, but because the fundamental issues driving end-market demand appear to be shifting away from legacy demand constraints.

  • Preparing for a fair fight, albeit very politely

    SPI 2013: NEM solar and utility battlers live to fight another day

    By Felicity Carus - 25 October 2013, 08:12 | 1

    As SPI in Chicago drew to a close yesterday, it was the increasingly contentious topic of net energy metering that dominated the debate. Felicity Carus reports on an issue that just won’t go away and looks set to become even more divisive in 2014.

  • Cumulative solar PV installed in the UK

    UK Solar PV demand collapses as EU/China case creates ‘lost’ quarter

    By Finlay Colville - 17 October 2013, 12:03

    Solar PV demand from the UK declined significantly during the third quarter of 2013 (Q3 2013), as the full impact of the Europe-China trade case impacted on module availability. Finlay Colville looks ahead to what 2014 what 2014 holds in store.

  • Photo courtesy of Applied Materials Inc.

    Whither solar in the ‘merger of equals’?

    By Tom Cheyney - 25 September 2013, 17:53

    The news of the conjoining of Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron raises questions about the fates of solar PV production equipment units.

  • But the more troubling news for PV equipment suppliers is that Yingli has now stated it can ship 4GW of modules in 2014 without having to ad

    Lack of Yingli Green’s CapEx reveals scale of asset-lite fab operations

    By Finlay Colville - 30 August 2013, 15:25

    Earlier today – 30 August 2013 – the world’s largest global solar PV module supplier, Yingli Green Energy, reported its second quarter earnings results and guided on expectations for the 2H’13 and 2014.

  • How many companies are left in China?

    PV for sale or rent: China’s 12GW virtual fab

    By Finlay Colville - 25 July 2013, 13:33

    The solar PV industry remains in a highly turbulent transition phase, still getting to grips with the scale of over-investment that occurred in 2010 and 2011. In fact, having just got back from a global PV road-trip that took in Germany, the US, Korea, China and Taiwan, it is apparent that the aftershocks within the industry are set to continue for some time yet.

  • Effective capacity stands at approximately 45GW

    What is effective PV manufacturing capacity?

    By Finlay Colville - 22 July 2013, 13:34

    One of the key issues that is still puzzling the PV industry is: what is the real – or effective – capacity today?

  • There is only one way to forecast CapEx, and that is bottom-up from the production line level, with segmentation by process flow variant and

    Would the leading PV equipment supplier please stand up?

    By Finlay Colville - 04 June 2013, 11:43

    It is hard to imagine any marketing scenario in which citing leading ranking metrics would be off the radar. But just think for one minute: when was the last time a PV equipment supplier announced leading ranking status with any fanfare? Or proclaimed a purchase order that would catapult revenues beyond fiscal year guided levels?

  • The PV installation on the roof of the Bentley Motors factory.

    UK solar PV demand reached 520MW in Q1 2013

    By Finlay Colville - 04 June 2013, 10:10

    The rush to build large-scale ground-mount projects to qualify for the 2ROCs incentive rate has pushed cumulative UK demand to 2.5GW. NPD Solarbuzz’s Finlay Colville looks at a record quarter for the UK.

  • Rhosygilwen in Pembrokeshire.

    Hanergy’s UK thin-film aspirations: realistic, optimistic or inevitable?

    By Finlay Colville - 17 May 2013, 10:28 | 2

    Thin-film manufacturer Hanergy this week announced its arrival in the UK with the acquisition of domestic solar provider Engensa. As the UK has little track record with thin-film PV, Finlay Coleville assesses what Hanergy’s motives are and how it will succeed.

  • Module manufacturing utilization rates at Trina Solar set to rise in 2013, according to annual report.

    Trina Solar’s annual report reveals production utilisation, top customer and financial insights

    By Tom Cheyney - 08 April 2013, 14:47 | 3

    Normally a sleeping aid for insomniacs, SEC filings can sometimes contain interesting insights into publicly traded companies. Tom Cheyney has dug a few out from Trina Solar’s latest filing.

  • Hanwha SolarOne supplied a total of 16 MWp of PV modules to ib vogt, for two separate PV parks in the United Kingdom

    Record breaking start to 2013 puts UK on solar world map

    By Finlay Colville - 27 March 2013, 15:00 | 2

    Forecasts suggest the UK will be the fifth largest PV market globally during the first quarter of this year. Finlay Colville assesses how this once small player is beginning to punch above its weight.

  • NPD Solarbuzz forecast scenarios for PV demand during 2013 highlighting the dependency on existing Western PV markets, adapted from March 20

    Global PV demand in 2013: The highs and lows of scenario forecasting

    By Finlay Colville - 18 March 2013, 10:50 | 1

    European PV demand will be the key swing factor for final global PV demand during 2013. Sound familiar? Demand from established ‘Western’ PV territories (Europe and North America) may comprise as little as 49% of global demand, but as much as 57%. Whether we end up closer to the upper end of this range or the lower range will ultimately shape the outcome of the PV industry this year.

  • to qualify for the World Cup, you first have to take the honours in your domestic league.

    PV World Cup restricted to domestic league winners

    By Finlay Colville - 09 March 2013, 15:18

    As though by chance, the UK PV industry chose the London 2012 Olympic Games year to mark its entrance on the global stage as a gigawatt-status PV end market. And by the time the FIFA Soccer World Cup gets underway in Rio in 2014, Brazil will have broken through the 100MW annual PV demand barrier.

  • PV demand in Europe reached 16.5GW in 2012, representing 57% of the 29 GW global PV demand in 2012. Source: NPD Solarbuzz Marketbuzz, March

    PV in Europe represented 16.5GW of global 29GW demand in 2012

    By Tim Murphy - 01 March 2013, 12:33

    For 2012, Europe retained its dominant position in global PV demand reaching 16.5GW, according to findings in the new NPD Solarbuzz Marketbuzz report.

  • PHOTO OF PRODUCTION FLOOR COURTESY OF TSMC SOLAR

    Taking a closer look at Intevac’s production tool order, TSMC Solar’s CIGS efficiency record

    By Tom Cheyney - 06 February 2013, 16:07

    The depressed state of the PV production equipment sector has been well chronicled. Few companies are adding or updating capacity, both on the crystalline silicon and thin-film PV fronts, and tool firms’ bookings (let alone billings) remain very light. Announcements of production orders are few and far between, so when a firm does score one, it should not go unnoticed/uncelebrated, no matter how modest.

  • Midstream in-house c-Si/thin-film cell production during 2012 was dominated by Chinese and Taiwan cell makers, with First Solar – the only t

    First Solar chart-topping prevents talk about a revolution

    By Finlay Colville - 06 February 2013, 10:12 | 1

    First Solar is forecast to have been the largest midstream solar PV cell manufacturer in 2012, according to recent checks and preliminary estimates by NPD Solarbuzz of internal (in-house) cell/midstream PV production levels during the calendar year 2012.

  • Novel approaches are needed to tap into the huge potential of CSP and CST systems for meeting thermal and electric power demands of building

    Challenges facing the integration/retrofit of CSP systems within the built environment

    By Harjit Singh - 01 February 2013, 15:13 | 5

    To achieve wide-scale application without the need to rebuild existing infrastructure it is essential that systems are suitable for installation to allow easy integration with or retrofitting to buildings

  • Table 1. According to NPD Solarbuzz, Yingli Green Energy is confirmed as the leading module supplier by MW shipment levels for 2012. Seven o

    Top 10 PV module suppliers in 2012

    By Ray Lian - 28 January 2013, 10:44

    According to the latest research findings from NPD Solarbuzz (based upon new channel checks and confirmations), Yingli Green Energy can be confirmed as the number 1 PV module supplier during 2012.

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  • Photovoltaics International 24th Edition

    Signs earlier in the year of the global industry entering a growth phase have now been confirmed beyond any doubt. Almost all the big-name suppliers have now announced some form of manufacturing capacity expansion, a trend that analysts agree will only gather pace as long as the levels of demand predicted over the next few years turn out to be correct.

  • Manufacturing The Solar Future: The 2014 Production Annual

    Although the past few years have proved extremely testing for PV equipment manufacturers, falling module prices have driven solar end-market demand to previously unseen levels. That demand is now starting to be felt by manufacturers, to the extent that leading companies are starting to talk about serious capacity expansions later this year and into 2015. This means that the next 12 months will be a critical period if companies throughout the supply chain are to take full advantage of the PV industry’s next growth phase.

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