Chinese module suppliers continue to dominate global sphere

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The top 20 solar PV module suppliers accounted for almost 70% of global PV shipments in Q1 2013, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz Module Tracker Quarterly report.

According to the market analyst company, tier 1 solar PV module suppliers are implementing aggressive overseas marketing strategies to increase market share. This is most evident among the top 10 Chinese tier 1 PV module suppliers such as Yingli Green Energy, Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, Jinko Solar, and ReneSola.

Other market research companies IHS and GTM Research crowned Yingli as the largest global supplier of PV modules in 2012 as well as the top cell manufacturer in 2012.

Chinese solar PV module suppliers continue to dominate the global supply landscape, with 41% of module shipments coming from the top 10 tier 1 Chinese suppliers over the past four quarters. Emerging Chinese tier 1 suppliers that had previously been focused on PV cell manufacturing, such as JA Solar and Hareon Solar, also gained market share as they increased solar PV module shipments.

“The top 10 Chinese suppliers have been less successful in countries where there is strong competition from domestic module suppliers or attractive solar PV policy incentives,” said Ray Lian, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.

“In the US and Japanese solar PV markets, for example, local manufacturers still rank at the top for domestic PV module shipments.”

Over the last four quarters, US based manufacturers First Solar and SunPower were the leaders in module shipments to the US market. In Japan, leading domestic PV module suppliers Sharp, Kyocera, Panasonic, and Solar Frontier also outperformed Chinese competitors during the same time period.

Solar PV module supply to the US and Japan is contrasted by the dominance of tier 1 Chinese module suppliers in European countries, emerging solar PV regions, and in China and Australia. Over the past four quarters, for example, almost 50% of modules shipped to the Australian PV market have been supplied by a small group of tier 1 Chinese manufacturers led by Trina Solar, followed by ReneSola, Suntech, China Sunergy and Canadian Solar.

Leading European tier 1 PV module suppliers, such as Conergy and SolarWorld, continue to target European and North American PV markets that are characterised by brand recognition and higher pricing levels. However, this strategy comes at the expense of global penetration, as their market share within the top 20 module suppliers declined from 10% in Q1 2012 to 7.5% in Q1 2013.

The report notes that pricing levels for solar PV modules continue to vary across the key solar PV end-markets, the average sales price for the top 20 tier 1 suppliers showed signs that it was stabilising at US$0.76/Watt in Q1’13. This compares to US$1.03/Watt in Q1’12.

“The stabiliaation of module prices during Q1’13 was driven mainly by a geographic shift in demand from end markets during the quarter, with strong demand from higher price countries such as Japan preventing further global declines,” added Lian. “However, pricing continues to vary considerably among different countries and for the various module technology types being supplied.”

Lian concluded: “The continued consolidation of solar PV manufacturers is creating opportunities for the leading tier 1 module suppliers. The market share of the top 20 module suppliers increased significantly in Q1’13 to 70%, up from 58% in Q1’12.”

Trade disputes and domestic manufacturing incentives are creating import restrictions across a range of PV end markets, so supplier market share and country specific pricing levels will increasingly dominate the global strategies being rolled out by leading tier 1 module suppliers for the remainder of 2013, states the report.

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