PV module suppliers: China continues to dominate; prices stabilize

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In its latest Module Tracker Quarterly report, NPD Solarbuzz has found that 41% of module shipments have been made by the top 10 tier 1 Chinese photovoltaic module suppliers over the past four quarters.

New entrants, including JA Solar and Hareon Solar, which had previously been focused on cell manufacturing, have helped increased China’s dominance, whilst gaining market share.

Overall, NPD Solarbuzz has found that almost 70% of the photovoltaic module shipments in the first quarter of this year were undertaken by the top 20 global suppliers, compared to 58% in Q1 2012. Continued consolidation has been attributed to this increase.

Overseas strategies

In order to grow market shares, many tier 1 suppliers are said to be focused on expanding overseas business through the implementation of "aggressive" overseas marketing strategies. This is particularly evident in China-based suppliers, like Yingli Green Energy, Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, Jinko Solar, and ReneSola, says the U.K.-based company.

However, according to senior analyst, Ray Lian, "The top 10 Chinese suppliers have been less successful in countries where there is strong competition from domestic module suppliers or attractive solar PV policy incentives."

Indeed, over the last four quarters, NPD Solarbuzz found that First Solar and SunPower led U.S. photovoltaic module shipments. Domestic dominance also prevailed in Japan, where Sharp, Kyocera, Panasonic, and Solar Frontier were the leading suppliers.

In addition to leading module supplies in their home country, Chinese suppliers fare better in markets including Europe, Australia, and emerging regions. In Australia, for example, NPD Solarbuzz found that almost 50% of Q1 module shipments came from Trina Solar, Renesola, Suntech, China Sunergy, and Canadian Solar.

Although leading European tier 1 suppliers like Conergy and SolarWorld continue to sell their products mainly to European and North American markets, they saw market shares falling from 10% in Q1 2012, to 7.5% in Q1 2013.

Pricing strategies

In the same report, NPD Solarbuzz stated that average photovoltaic module prices in the tier 1 category showed signs of stabilization in Q1 2013, having reached US$0.76/W, down from was $1.03/W in Q1 2012.

This apparent stabilization is said to have been driven by geographical shifts in demand. Japan, for instance, was cited as helping to put a halt to further global price declines. "However," stated Lian, "pricing continues to vary considerably among different countries and for the various module technology types being supplied."

NPD Solarbuzz concluded by saying that in a bid to deal with the continuing challenging photovoltaic market conditions, including trade disputes and local content requirements, tier 1 photovoltaic module suppliers are increasingly focusing on country specific pricing strategies and market share.