A detailed preliminary analysis of global PV manufacturing expansion plans for the first half of 2015 indicates that little if any meaningful or ‘effective’ new plans were announced by Chinese producers for China.

Instead, Chinese crystalline silicon-based PV manufacturers announced more than 6.7GW of planned capacity expansions in a number of overseas countries, including India, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, Brazil and the US. 

According to PV Tech’s next updated quarterly report on global PV manufacturing capacity announcements, published in sister technical journal, Photovoltaics International, Chinese producers announced at least 19GW of new capacity plans in 2014 for production in China. 

However, the first half of 2015 has seen several of the same tier-one companies that announced new production plans in China last year, such as Trina Solar, JinkoSolar and JA Solar, lead an exodus overseas. 

This has been driven by US anti-dumping duties as well as plans to become major players in emerging markets such as India and Latin America. 

The lack of new capacity expansions in China contrasts with over 12GW of new announcements in 2015 for other regions across Asia, with Chinese producers accounting for just over half of the capacity announcement figures. 

Malaysia and Thailand preferred destinations

Southeast Asia attracted nearly 4.5GW of new PV manufacturing capacity plans in the first half of 2015, led by Thailand with over 2GW announced and over 1.5GW announced for Malaysia. 

This is significant increase over 2014, when Malaysia attracted over 900MW of new capacity announcements and Thailand only 100MW.

However, this included the relocation of production lines by Hanwha Q CELLS from Germany to Malaysia but also plans by Taiwan-based solar producer Gintech in establishing production in Thailand. 

Southeast Asia remains the most attractive region for expansions in Asia but outside China.

Indeed, new capacity announcements in Malaysia and Thailand could have been more in the first half of the year but solar cell producers such as Neo Solar Power (NSP) and Motech Industries have held back decisions on moving production from Taiwan to avoid US anti-dumping duties. 

South Korea renaissance 

The seismic shifts do not stop with China as South Korea re-emerged with new PV manufacturing expansion plan announcements estimated to be in the region of 3GW. 

Both Hanwha Q CELLS and SolarPark Korea significantly contributed to the 3GW total in just the first half of the year, potentially marking a renaissance in PV manufacturing in South Korea, enabling Korean firms to fill the module demand void in the US left by many Chinese competitors.

Other than the lack of new capacity additions in China in the first half of 2015, the big surprise has therefore been South Korea.

In contrast, the renaissance in PV manufacturing announcements in the US that was noted last year has waned significantly. In 2014, the US had over 1.8GW of new capacity plans announced but has so far slumped to around 300MW. 

The US is expected to remain the third largest market for PV through the end of 2016

As exclusively reported by PV Tech, China-based producer Seraphim is to open a 300MW module assembly plant in the US this year. 

Although much speculation still surrounds India and its ability to meet a highly ambitious 100GW of PV installations by 2022, around half of over 4GW of capacity expansion plans announced in the first half of 2015 include Indian and Chinese firms via joint ventures. 

This is in contrast with only around 1.4GW of announcements that were made for India in the whole of 2014, with little of that figure yet to materialise in actual production. 

Indian and other companies such as US-based SunEdison and JV’s between Japan’s SoftBank and Taiwan-OEM Foxconn have made pledges to build PV manufacturing plants in India that equate to significant capacity additions. However, the vast majority have remained outside PV Tech’s current inclusion until more definitive announcements are made.

Yet, capacity expansion announcements in meaningful amounts have not been restricted to Asia alone, although its geographical dominance remains.

Latin America passes 1GW milestone 

PV Tech’s analysis of manufacturing capacity announcements in Latin America indicate the milestone of over 1GW of planned production in the region was surpassed in the first half of the year and took less than 18 months to achieve. 

Chinese producer BYD was primarily responsible for this, announcing plans for a 400MW module assembly plant in Brazil in May.

Latin America is forecast to install 2.2GW of PV in 2015, a 352% increase from 625MW in 2014, according to GTM Research.

However, like India, raising capital is a major issue and has slowed production projects getting to the line, especially without overseas JV involvement. 

China issues

The only potential discrepancy in the first-half year analysis is whether the 2.7GW of primarily new a-Si thin-film capacity announced by Hanergy Thin Film should be recognised. 

Remarkably, Hanergy TF actually accounted for almost all of the new capacity announcements for China in the first half of the year. 

Hanergy TF only announced another 900MW expansion for its parent company, Hanergy Group in May, yet while the company remains under investigation by Hong Kong securities and its share trading halted it announced the contract had been cancelled, without providing any explanation. 

Hanergy TF previously announced a further three a-Si thin-film manufacturing contracts this year, totalling a further 1.8GW to companies with no prior PV involvement. A key omission from the contract announcements was the locations for the production plants. 

Elsewhere, PV manufacturing capacity expansion plan announcements in Europe, North America and Africa remained limited and primarily attributable to one individual company in each region.