Research: Chinese companies dominate solar manufacturing spending

Collectively, says iSuppli, the seven Chinese companies are set to expand their photovoltaics (PV) cell and module manufacturing by 6.4 gigawatts (GW) this year, representing 71.8 percent of the total 8.98 GW increase among the Top 10.

“While European countries like Germany are leading the world in solar installations, China has built a dominant position in the manufacturing of cells and modules that are used in these systems,” said Greg Sheppard, chief research officer for iSuppli. “With Chinese cell and module manufacturers now engaged in a race to expand manufacturing, the country is certain to maintain and expand its dominant position.”

The biggest expansion, says the research company, will be undertaken by China’s LDK Solar Co. Ltd., which will add a total of 1.42 GW worth of module and cell manufacturing in 2010. The company also will bring on 1.3 GW of c-Si module capacity and 120 megawatts (MW) of c-Si cell manufacturing capacity.

“LDK is adding enormous amounts of capacity as it tries to keep pace with fellow Chinese solar suppliers,” Sheppard observed.

iSuppli adds that number two among the capacity adders will be Renewable Energy Corp. of Norway, with 1.09 GW of new manufacturing. “REC is reinvigorating its cell and module business with a giant new campus in Singapore, causing its production capacity to rise,” Sheppard explained.

In terms of c-Si cells, JA Solar of China is poised to lead in manufacturing expansion, with 700 MW of the one GW in total additions allocated for that technology.

If the spending for ingots, wafers, polysilicon is added, iSuppli estimates the PV industry will spend approximately $11 billion on production equipment this year. The company explains that the spending is being driven by the doubling of sales for solar panels as well as pent-up demand induced by the slowing of capital expenditures in 2009.

For their part, says the company, thin film companies have been relatively small spenders this year, as many in their ranks had plenty of manufacturing capacity to absorb. First Solar allowed efficiency improvements – rather than spending on new equipment – to drive capacity growth this year.

It concludes by saying that spending on thin film capital equipment is slated to accelerate in 2011, assuming that companies follow through on announced plans.