Taiwan: PV technology war is afoot

04. October 2011 | Top News, Markets & Trends, Global PV markets | By:  Becky Stuart

Speaking after PV Taiwan's pre-show press conference, Sam Hong, Taiwan Photovoltaic Industry Association chairman and Neo Solar's president and COO told pv magazine that a photovoltaic technology war is starting. And, while the rain may be coming down in Taipei, solar prospects in Taiwan are bright, according to many of the industry's leaders.

Solar prospects in Taiwan are bright according to many of the industry's leaders. Image: PV Taiwan 2011/TAITRA

Hong stated that a global technology war is being waged in the photovoltaics industry. China, he said, is in a strong position, due to its government support and incentives. However, he said that the country can still learn something from Taiwan - which he believes will emerge an overall technology leader - due to its in-depth semiconductor experience.

He added that technological expertise in Europe and Japan is impressive, but that they are at a disadvantage due to high manufacturing costs.

The topic of Chinese versus Taiwanese manufacturing was also touched on in a presentation from Karen Lo, marketing director for SEMI PV Group, held earlier in the day. She said that China's photovoltaic industry is growing at a faster pace than Taiwan's, because of its big domestic market and government subsidies, which are present on both a central and local level. Furthermore, she said that the Chinese industry is better vertically integrated and, therefore, has a higher profit margin because it can control supply.

Installed capacity

Moving on to installed capacity, Hong stated that if more systems could be added to Taiwan's grid, then the industry would be more robust. Cumulative capacity is currently very low - in 2010 installations reached 20.2 megawatts (MW) - and there needs to be more education, he said, as many are still not yet aware of the technology.

In particular, he said that the financial institutions are not yet aware of of the high internal rates of return available on photovoltaics. "They need to pay more attention," he told pv magazine.

Taiwan's target for this year is to reach over 70 MW of installed photovoltaic capacity. It is hoped that by 2030, 2.5 gigawatts (GW) will have been installed.

Just last week, the country's largest photovoltaic plant was completed. Undertaken by Tai Power, the project is expected to generate six MW of energy annually. Covering 94,000 square meters of land, it will start operations by the end of the year.

PV market trends

During the pre-show press conference, Hong added that for Neo Solar, the U.S. and Japan are set to be its two most important markets in 2012. From 2010, profits in the two regions have increased from eight percent to 33 percent in 2011.

Speaking on behalf of Win Win Precision Technology, chairman Davis Chen went on to say that Germany, the U.S. and Italy will be the most important photovoltaic markets next year.

With a bleaker photovoltaic perspective than his peers, Chin-Yao Tsai from Auria Solar said he believed the industry's expectations will not play out because one cannot control either government policy or world economics. He added that in 2012, the most important markets will be Germany, Italy, China and the U.S. Meanwhile, India and Japan are two candidates for strong growth.

Christine Young, chairman of the Taiwan Polysilicon Corporation went on to say that there has been a mismatch in the overall supply and demand chains because the photovoltaic industry was in its infancy. However, now that it is in the adolescent phase, the market will balance out.

Finally, Jia-Ruey Duann, general director of the Center for Measurement Standards, ITRI, stated that it is not market trends which are important for the Taiwan photovoltaics industry, but rather that the country's products can be exported with good quality standards.

To achieve this, the center has established a production standards committee. Duann stated that the packaging of modules, for example, must be paid due attention and is important in upholding product quality in shipments.

Manufacturing

Taiwan is the second biggest manufacturer of solar cells in the world, behind China. It is believed that this year, both countries will hold an 80 percent share of the cell market: currently, they are said to represent just over 60 percent.

Of the global manufacturers, three of the top 15 are from Taiwan: Motech, Gintech and Neo Solar. The country went from producing around 1.6 GW of solar cells in 2009, to over three GW in 2010. While annual sales have grown from NTD06. billion in 2002, to NTD200 billion in 2010, the goal is to hit NTD450 billion in 2015.

PV Taiwan opens its doors tomorrow morning in Taiepei. 245 domestic and 41 international exhibitors from 13 countries will display their wares in the tradeshow's halls, while over 12,000 visitors are expected to attend both the show and conferences.

Watch out for the November edition of pv magazine, which wil include an in-depth look into Taiwan's photovoltaic manufacturing industry.


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