Top PV module suppliers developing own utility projects

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In a Wiki-Solar league table of the leading module suppliers to installations of 10 MW or more, four of the top eight companies worldwide have their own development pipeline, although the second, third and fourth biggest suppliers by volume – all Chinese – have yet to adopt the turnkey strategy.

Appropriately named First Solar – with its thin film modules – tops the global module table for the fourth year running, thanks in part to its solar project development pipeline.

The U.S. giant, which has supplied 50 sites with a generation capacity of 1.7 GWp has almost three times as many sites, and supplied more than four times as much generation capacity, as second placed Trina Solar.

Below Trina, Suntech, and Yingli Solar are SunPower Corporation, Canadian Solar and Hanwha Q.Cells in fifth, sixth and seventh position, respectively, all of whom boast a development pipeline.

U.S. manufacturer SunPower specializes in high-efficiency modules and with Canadian Solar manufacturing panels in China, it is South Korean-based Hanwha which breaks the China-U.S. duopoly on module supply, thanks to its takeover of ailing German manufacturer Q.Cells this year.

Norway’s REC sits eighth in the table with Spanish supplier Solaria Energia ninth – as the providers who fuelled Spain’s 2008 solar boom slip down the rankings – supplying around half as much generation capacity as Hanwha Q.Cells, and less than 6% of the figure supplied by First Solar.

Chinese producer LDK Solar, meanwhile, is ranked tenth.

"The strategy of developing their own solar power station projects has been good for some of the leading manufacturers", states Wiki-Solar’s Philip Wolfe, "especially for those like First Solar and SunPower, who have a differentiated product offering. First Solar produce thin film cells, while SunPower specializes in very high efficiency modules."

He adds, "Canadian Solar has used a similar approach to stimulate demand for its panels, especially with a substantial project pipeline in its home market. It will be interesting to see if anything materialises from rumours that other major producers are considering diversifying into project development."

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