Having grown its shipments by more than 130 percent over the previous year, IMS states that at 1,570 megawatts (MW) Suntech shipped more than any of its competitors in 2010. First Solar, on the other hand, lost its top spot, having shipped 1,380 MW. Overall, it increased its shipments by less than 50 percent, says the research company.
IMS goes on to say that of all the suppliers in the top ten gaining rank were Chinese. It cites Chinese Tier-1 suppliers Canadian Solar and Hanwha SolarOne, which both gained two places in its rankings. REC was the only western supplier to move up the rankings to 11th place. Conversely, suppliers who fell down were said to be western, and headquartered in the U.S.
"2010 was an outstanding year for everyone in the PV industry. Module suppliers were able to benefit from the strong demand, which lasted all year, and make great increases in their shipments; five of the top ten suppliers more than doubled them, some even increased them by more than 150 percent," says Sam Wilkinson, PV Market Analyst at IMS Research.
Looking ahead, IMS predicts a slowdown in growth for the photovoltaic module market in 2012, as many major European markets cool following amendments to incentive schemes.
In terms of photovoltaic cell producers, JA Solar came out on top, having increased its production by nearly 180 percent. It was only the fifth largest producer in 2009.
Writing for the May edition of pv magazine, editor William Vorsatz explains that the Chinese company has doubled its cell capacity and nearly tripled its production. In 2010, IHS iSuppli calculates that JA Solar produced 1.46 gigawatts (GW) of cells (JA Solar says it produced 1.9 GW). The company has announced plans to increase capacity to over three gigawatts in 2011.
Suntech was found to be the second biggest photovoltaic cells producer in 2010, with IHS iSuppli believing that it manufactured 1.4 GW over the year (Suntech says it manufactured 1.8 GW). It has plans to increase this to 2.4 GW this year.
Ranking third was German company Q-Cells, which although experienced an "awful year" in 2009, recovered well last year. By IHS iSupplis estimates, it manufactured 940 MW of photovoltaic cells in 2010 (Q-Cells says it produced 1.1 GW). It is looking to hit 1.1 GW again in 2011.
Motech Industries, meanwhile, climbed six places, to rank fourth and Yingli Green Energy reached fifth place.
Watch out for the May edition of pv magazine, which will feature an extended article on the top global cell manufacturers.