Although the downstream market shift from East to West is resulting in higher growth rates for PV engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firms in Asia, leading PV energy provider (PVEP), First Solar continues to top the EPC rankings with more single projects primarily in the US, compared to its rivals, according to IHS.

IHS is projecting that First Solar will execute on its project pipeline in 2013, becoming the first firm to surpass the 1GW installed level in a given year. The company is expected to install 1.1GW this year, a 113% increase of installations of 516MW in 2012.

“First Solar’s successful strategy of acquiring, installing and divesting projects will keep the company among the world’s leading solar system integrators over the next years,” said Josefin Berg, senior analyst for downstream solar research at IHS. “This approach not only offers a sales outlet for modules, but more importantly also generates project-sales revenue that cushion the company when seeking new growth markets.”

To replenish its PV project pipeline completions, First Solar has acquired two major pipelines in recent times, Solar Chile’s early-stage 1.5GW pipeline and Element Power’s 1.5GW project pipeline for the US and Mexico. First Solar now has a pipeline of around 8GW.

However, US-based SunEdison’s growth is lowest amongst its Top 5 rivals with only a 20% forecasted installation growth over 2012 and is expected to be ranked fourth, behind up and coming Chinese rivals.

However, unlike its US-based rival First Solar, SunEdison primarily focuses on smaller MW projects that return faster ROI, reducing capital costs and has a wider regional footprint of projects than others, which includes India, Chile and South Africa, in addition to 340MW in North America in 2013.

The focus on a few larger projects means that both the US and Chinese solar capacity installation figures can be dominated by projects larger than 50MW, which can push system integrator higher in the rankings at a given time.

In Japan, predicted by IHS to be the second-largest market in 2013, is expected to display a wider range of project sizes, resulting in a more fragmented competitive landscape.

However, China is one of the two (Japan) fastest growing markets for PV installations and IHS expects China Power Investments (CPIC) to install 700MW in 2013, a 119% increase over 2012, elevating the company to second place, up from fourth last year.

According to the market research firm, CPIC’s construction activity represents 10.4% China’s non-residential, which are forecasted to reach 6.8GW in 2013.

IHS is forecasting that six Chinese companies will rise this year to rank among the Top 10 global EPC companies in 2013, three of which will place among the Top 5.