As previously reported there was a significant slowdown in global solar PV manufacturing capacity expansion announcements in the third quarter of 2017, which we highlighted was hardly surprising due to significant level of expansions plans announced in the first half of the year. However, despite increased concerns over the potential imposition of restrictive trade practices in the US and India in the fourth quarter of 2017, there was a significant rebound over the previous quarter, leading to the highest recorded gigawatts of new expansion announcements.
The major manufacturing transition by First Solar to its large-area Series 6 CdTe thin-film module format is well underway and, going by recent management commentary in its fourth quarter 2017 conference call with financial analysts, has increased its tempo slightly, not least due to updated spending plans for the second time in a few months.
PV capital expenditure (capex) in 2018, covering investments into ingot, wafer, cell and module capacity, will grow by almost 25% compared to 2017, passing through the US$10 billion mark, returning to levels last seen back in 2010 and 2011 when investments in turn-key thin-film fabs were a key contributor.
Solar PV capital expenditure (capex) covering the midstream segments of the industry (c-Si ingot-to-module and thin-film) is now well into its second major upturn in spending, going into 2018, at a time when the industry is just about to move to a new phase in annual deployment levels of greater than 100GW.
The first PV ModuleTech event is due to take place in Kuala Lumpur on 7-8 November, and the event is poised to explain and define the key module suppliers, technologies and audited metrics that are imperative to developers, EPCs, investors and asset owners for utility-scale solar module deployment in 2018 and beyond.
Documents filed by US-headquartered high-efficiency PV cell and module producer SunPower Corp to the US International Trade Commission (ITC) in respect to the ‘Section 201’ trade case show that SunPower wants thin-film modules made by First Solar included in any remedy actions, while pitching for its IBC (Interdigitated back contact) cells and modules to be excluded.