The rapid capacity expansions by First Solar saw the CdTe thin-film leader scale the PV module rankings to become the number-one shipper in 2009. Although another aggressive phase of expansions has been announced, the lack of new capacity in 2010 compared to rivals, particularly Suntech and JA Solar, means First Solar has fallen to third place among module manufacturer in the third quarter, according to IMS Research.
However, the market research firm expects that weaker demand and increased pricing pressure in 2011 will enable First Solar to regain some of its market share losses from 2010 as it brings new capacity online.
“IMS Research projects that after more than doubling in 2010, PV installations will grow by less than 10% in 2011,” commented PV research analyst, Sam Wilkinson. “We forecast that PV module prices will decline by over 15% in the first half of 2011 as demand weakens in key European markets following reductions in feed-in tariffs. First Solar’s industry leading margins and significant pipeline of utility-scale systems in North America will stand it in good stead as the market becomes more competitive in 2011.”
According to IMS Research, First Solar had been the largest producer of PV cells for six consecutive quarters.