Multicrystalline silicon modules to dominate PV industry in 2014

The production of multicrystalline-silicon (c-Si) modules is set to dominate PV manufacturing during 2014, with p-type multi c-Si technology accounting for 62% of all modules produced, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly report.

Solar PV manufacturers are currently planning to increase module production by 25% next year to 49.7 GW of modules, compared to the 39.7 GW of modules in 2013.

NPD Solarbuzz said the prediction was in line with its upgraded forecast that end-market solar PV demand will reach 45 to 55 GW next year.

"PV manufacturers continue to prioritize cost-reduction across the entire c-Si value-chain, with improvements in efficiency coming mainly from higher-quality multi c-Si wafers," said Finlay Colville, NPD Solarbuzz vice president. "While there will inevitably be short-term supply issues throughout the year, polysilicon and wafer supply is considered adequate for 45 to 50 GW of c-Si module shipments in 2014."

Finlay added that Chinese cell and module suppliers would continue to operate a flexible manufacturing strategy, with new capacity expected to come online during the second half of 2014.

Thin film production will continue to lose market share, declining from 9.4% in 2013 to 8.9% in 2014. Investments in new thin film manufacturing equipment declined to an eight-year low during 2013, but are forecast to increase significantly in 2015, as existing suppliers and new entrants into the market add capacity, according to the report.

The top two thin-film suppliers, First Solar and Solar Frontier, will produce nearly 85% of all thin-film modules in 2014, NPD Solarbuzz predicts.

Standard p-type multi c-Si modules will again be the leading solar PV technology, accounting for 35% of PV modules produced in 2014. However, the strongest technology share gains in 2014 will come from the advanced p-type multi segment that includes double screen-printing, ion-implanting, selective emitters, wrap-through variants and rear-surface passivation. This segment will increase from 23.8% in 2013 to 27.2% in 2014.

While the share of high-efficiency p-type mono and n-type modules is set to decline from 29.6% in 2013 to 29.3% in 2014, production will grow by 2.8 GW in 2014 due to the overall growth of the industry. This increase in high-efficiency c-Si modules is being driven by space-constrained solar PV deployment, characterized by the booming Japanese end-market, and by the strategies of established leading tier 1 suppliers, such as SunPower and Panasonic, that continue to secure premium module pricing levels through the downstream channels.

Leading Chinese c-Si suppliers will continue to increase production of p-type multi c-Si products during 2014 as the fastest route to restoring operating margins to pre-2012 levels.

"This tactic is complemented by a highly cautious approach to transitioning next-generation technologies from the research lab to mass production. This dual strategy will continue to be the major barrier to any common technology roadmap being implemented within the solar PV industry over the next two to three years," the report said.