On a shipment basis, Suntech Power has retained its position as the Number 1 module manufacturer in the world for 2011, according to the latest report from IMS Research. In retaining the top position, Suntech shipped over 2GW of modules last year, the first in the PV industry to do so. Suntech had also consistently out-shipped rivals in each quarter of 2011.

“Leading suppliers were able to leverage their strong brands to grow their shipments in highly competitive market conditions in 2011,” commented Sam Wilkinson, Senior Market Analyst at IMS Research. “2011 claimed a number of victims, but nearly all of the top-ten suppliers grew their shipments and collectively they accounted for nearly half of total industry shipments.”

First Solar also retained its ranking at number 2 and was the only non-Chinese manufacturer in the top 5. SunPower, the only other US-based firm in the top 10 rankings retained its position of being ranked 8th.

Yingli Green (3), Trina Solar (4) and Canadian Solar (5) all gained 1-position in the rankings, primarily at the expense of Japan’s Sharp Corporation, which saw its ranking slip from 3rd to 6th. Another Japanese firm, Kyocera also dropped 3-positions to be ranked 10th.

The highest climber was another Chinese firm, Jinko Solar which climbed 11 places to be ranked at number 7, the first time the module manufacturer has been ranked within the top 10. Hanwha SolarOne was the final China-based firm to be listed at number 9, the same position it held in 2010.

The market research firm said that although 8 of the 10 largest suppliers saw annual shipments increase more than 10%, most producers had actually recorded lower shipments in Q4’11 compared to the previous quarter.

Canadian Solar and Trina Solar were amongst the few suppliers that actually increased shipments in Q4’11, with Canadian Solar became the third largest supplier in the quarter and increasing its annual market share by over 1%.

“Despite a very strong end-of-year rush to install in Germany, high inventory levels for PV modules in the supply chain meant that this was not reflected in suppliers’ shipments. The rush also came later than many expected and so many suppliers were not able to capitalise on this,” added Wilkinson.