Several solar module manufacturers have presented their quarterly figures in recent days, reporting increases in shipments and revenue.
The second quarter of 2013 "marked the turning point for the PV module industry and a return to profitability as expected," said Stefan de Haan, principal analyst at market research group IHS. The positive second quarter announcements from a number of PV manufacturers, including Jinko, Trina, Yingli and Canadian Solar, did not come as a big surprise. All of these leading Chinese PV manufacturers have announced significant increases in shipments and revenue and a return to the black.
This growth is associated with a strong market presence, above all in Japan, China and the United States, coupled with stabilizing pricing. The ongoing anti-dumping investigation in the European Union and, ironically, the fixing of a minimum price at least until December, resulted in price increases.
For the time being, prices are stable and this could, according to IHS, stimulate demand somewhat in Europe until a final decision on anti-dumping duties is made in December. Faced with the investigation, the leading Chinese PV providers have concentrated more heavily on new markets. Long term, this response will place them a strong position.
Canadian Solar was able to benefit from the PV boom in Japan, de Haan told pv magazine. Module prices in Japan are still about 25% higher than in China. Although this price gap may slowly be closing, the cost structure of Chinese manufacturers is also less than that of Japanese competitors. In the U.S., Chinese PV suppliers have discovered loopholes to circumvent the existing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties. Trina Solar recently announced the delivery of modules for a 250 MW project in Nevada.
Since the introduction of import duties last year, module prices have remained virtually unchanged for crystalline solar photovoltaic products from China, de Haan said.
"The recovery in the second quarter of 2013 will not be short lived: we predict that the leading suppliers can achieve, with a bit of luck, in the second half a gross margin of 5 to 10% over the entire crystalline module industry — an improvement of 2.5% over the first half of the year," IHS added.
Looking to manufacturers outside China, de Haan said: "Of course, all manufacturers are getting some more air. We see in particular the non-Chinese Asian manufacturers, especially those from Taiwan and South Korea, among the winners."
His forecast for European manufacturers is less optimistic. In order to have a future they would have to differentiate themselves from the Asian competition. Some manufacturers in Europe may well have already missed the boat, he added.
De Haan also recommends that the leading German provider, SolarWorld, rethink its business model. "SolarWorld has to change its business model, as life will be very tough in direct competition with the Yinglis, Jinkos and Canadian Solars of this world."
Translated by Kevin Campbell