Solar cell capacity expansions continue momentum in September

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PV Tech’s preliminary analysis of global PV manufacturing expansion plans for the month of September, 2015 echo trends set since the month of June when only a handful of announcements per month were publically made. 

The expectation for September was that after the record capacity expansion level set in May (6.7GW) new announcements would decline through to the fourth quarter when major new announcements from some of major PV manufacturers could be expected during third quarter financial conference calls. 

Though the trend has been downward as expected, a total of almost 1.5GW of new capacity plans were announced from five companies, much higher than the 1GW announced from five companies in August. 

Similar to August, September capacity plans announced were dominated by dedicated solar cell (200MW) and integrated cell and module (500MW) expansions, while dedicated module assembly plans totalled 760MW. There were zero capacity expansions announced for thin film production and zero for the third quarter of 2015. 

The main expansion announced (700MW) was that of China-based Seraphim Solar System expanding plans previously revealed (300MW) of module assembly in Jackson, Mississippi in May. The company has since said that it would be using solar cells procured from merchant cell producers in South Korea, which would include multi and mono products. 

The surprise news was the planned introduction of 200MW of solar cell capacity at aleo solar’s module assembly plant in Germany. Despite the European end-market in decline, European producers are mainly running at full-capacity. 

A level of caution therefore should be attributed to more than 500MW of plans announced by Longi Silicon Materials and GCL Integrated Technology Co /Adani Group JV for a 500MW integrated facility and unspecified plans both in India, respectively. 

Monorystalline wafer producer, Longi Silicon Materials has announced in the third quarter of this year around 6GW of planned expansions, including wafer, cell and module, primarily in China. 

Impressively, around 2GW of planned expansions with cell/module subsidiary Leye Photovoltaic have recently received financing through a private placement of shares in the parent company, while the remaining capacity plans have yet to be finalised. 

The recent GCL/Adani JV announcement simply lacks any details at all, especially details on financing. 

Third quarter analysis

With September out of the way we can also provide a preliminary analysis of expansion plans for the third quarter of 2015. 
As expected, total capacity announcements declined from the highs of the second quarter (9.8GW) to just over 6GW in the third quarter. 

However, the drop-off was not as significant as expected, especially when only 1.4GW was announced in the prior year period. The strength in announcements in Q3 mirrors those of Q1 and similar in size to the first two quarters of 2014. 

The third quarter also confirmed that emphasis on a MW level has most definitely switched to capacity plans for both dedicated solar cell expansions and integrated cell/module. 

A total of 2.5GW of dedicated solar cell expansions were made in the third quarter, while at least 1.9GW of integrated production plans were announced. Dedicated module assembly plans totalled around 1.7GW, slightly ahead of first quarter plans but down significantly from the second quarter’s 2.5GW.

Nine month analysis 

The most important trend in the first half of 2015 was arguably the geographical shift in planned expansions. With the wise precaution of excluding announcements made by Hanergy Thin Film, no new capacity announcements were made in China. 

However, that run ended briskly in July when Longi started announcing 5.5GW of expansions in China. 

Yet, Longi has been the only Chinese producer to announce major plans in China in the third quarter of the year, clearly indicating that a significant hold on capacity expansions in China remains in place. 

In the first nine months of 2015, a total of over 22GW of new capacity expansions have been announced, compared to over 13GW in the prior year period. Clearly strong momentum has been building. 

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