With gross margins for module manufacturers rebounding to an average 15% from as low as 1% in the July-to-September 2012 period market research group NPD Solarbuzz is predicting capacity expansions and efficiency improvements this year.
The gross margin upswing in the final quarter of last year was revealed in the latest edition of the company's Module Tracker Quarterly Report.
The report found the Chinese group of manufacturers in the world's top 20 module suppliers were best placed to benefit from bigger margins after reducing silicon and non-silicon costs to US$0.55/W from October to December with Jinko Solar becoming the first major supplier to break the $0.5/W floor price.
The cost reduction in China partly explains NPD Solarbuzz's findings the world's two biggest module makers, Yingli Green Energy and Trina Solar, have increased their share of the world market from 12% in the second quarter of 2012 to 15% in the last quarter.
"Yingli and Trina embarked on an aggressive shipment strategy over the last 18 months," said NPD Solarbuzz senior analyst Ray Lian in a press release publicising the latest report today.
Top 20 firms had 68% of global market
"They are now poised to become the first multi-gigawatt module suppliers during the next phase of strong end-market growth."
The quarterly report found 11 of the world's 20 biggest module companies who between them account for 68% of the global supply set shipping records last quarter with Trina breaking the 800 MW quarterly barrier and Yingli shipping over 900 MW of modules.
The average selling price of modules stayed at $0.72/W for the third successive three-month period, according to NPD Solarbuzz with premium brands including SunPower, Panasonic, SolarWorld, Sharp Solar and Kyocera able to command higher average prices.
However, Sharp's decision to cease production in the UK and the U.S. could see their selling prices start to fall.
The news about Yingli's global dominance came on the day the company announced its Yingli Singapore sunsidiary will supply 2 MW of its YGE Series panels to Malaysian solar distributor Maqo Technologies.
Yingli has already had 11.3 MW of panels installed in Malaysia and will ship the latest order to Maqo throughout this year. A further sign of Yingli's global ambitions came on Tuesday with the announcement the company's Chinese unit Yingli China had secured permission from the Chinese authorities to work on overseas projects and to send personnel overseas.
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