First Solar set for 1 GW of installations in 2013


In a further indication that its transition from module manufacturer to project developer — using its own modules — has been a success, First Solar is continuing to expand its project pipeline in the U.S. and beyond. According to IHS Solar figures, First Solar has approximately doubled its annual installed capacity figures for 2013, from 516 MW in 2012.

In a statement released on Monday, this growth of First Solar as an EPC shows that it is "living up to its name," writes IHS Solar, and will be the biggest EPC for 2013.

"First Solar’s successful strategy of acquiring, installing and divesting projects will keep the company among the world’s leading solar system integrators over the next years," said Josefin Berg, senior analyst for downstream solar research at IHS Solar. First Solar has also been moving into emerging solar markets and IHS Solar notes its acquisition in January of Solar Chile, which delivered it a 1.5 GW pipeline in the South American country.

Surpassing the U.S. based First Solar in terms of growth for 2013 is Chinese EPC China Power Investment. The IHS figures predict that the company will increase its annual installed capacity from 320 MW in 2012 to 700 MW in 2013 – representing 119% annual growth. China’s GD Solar rounds out the top three EPCs in the IHS 2013 forecast ranking, developing 500 MW of projects, up from 220 MW in 2012.

IHS Solar notes that Golden Sun initiative coupled with a political desire to offset declining module exports to Europe are behind the rapid growth of the "locally entrenched system integrators" in China. The analysts predict that 6.8 GW of photovoltaic generating capacity will be added in the non-residential sector in China in 6.8 GW. Six Chinese companies will enter the top 10 EPC list for 2013, according to IHS Solar predictions.

U.S. company SunEdison will also place amongst the top five EPCs for 2013. International activity is a key feature of SunEdison’s activities, IHS Solar notes, with a project pipeline in India, South Africa, and Chile, along with its 340 MW of projects in North America.

While the Japanese non-residential market is significant in 2013, project development there has had less of an impact on the IHS Solar EPC rankings, the market analysts note. This is due to the fact that projects tend to vary more in terms of size, therefore delivering a more fragmented EPC mix. Projects smaller than 2 MW have far less stringent grid connection and permitting requirements under the Japanese FIT scheme. By contrast, U.S and Chinese projects tend to be larger than 50 MW.