First Solar set to lose EPC top slot in 2014

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US firm First Solar cemented its position as the world’s leading solar engineering, procurement and construction contractor last year, but is set to be overtaken in 2014.

According to figures from market research firm IHS, the US system integrator and thin-film manufacturer installed 1.1GW worth of projects in 2013, more than double what it achieved in 2012.

However, in 2014, First Solar looks set to be overtaken as the world’s leading EPC firm by Chinese rival, TBEA SunOasis.

SunOasis came second in the 2013 ranking, adding 1GW over the year, up 750MW on its 2012 total.

This year the company is set to build on this momentum, adding 1.5GW compared to First Solar’s projected 1.3GW, according to the IHS ‘PV EPC and Project Market Tracker’.

According to IHS analyst Josefin Berg, although First Solar is building up project pipelines in new markets, its overwhelming focus is still on North America. This year 93% of its projects will be in this region.

“After 2015, depending on the evolution of solar support in the United States, First Solar risks slower growth in PV system integration,” Berg said. “And while the development pipeline in emerging countries has given the company a good start, it will be much more challenging to pursue than home-based projects in the US.”

TBEA SunOasis, meanwhile, looks set to build on its 2013 platform with a large pipeline of domestic projects as well as ventures in countries such as Pakistan.

“TBEA’s global reach as a power equipment provider opens up possibilities for EPC contracts in new PV markets,” Berg said. “But because the Chinese domestic market will grow by 31% this year, TBEA is also set to keep its systems business growth focused on China.”

Overall, IHS said the global PV project pipeline had now reached 140GW, 21GW of which are either under construction or have power purchase agreements signed.

Berg said: “It is obvious that a large chunk of these pipeline projects will never be built. Developers have to compete for PPAs, grid access, permits, and not least – financing.”

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