US, Chinese solar EPC companies continue to dominate global PV installations

The world’s 10 largest PV engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies are set this year to install a combined 8 GW of capacity, equivalent to 20% of the world’s non-residential PV demand, according to a new report from IHS Technology.

Maintaining their top positions in the IHS PV integrator ranking for 2014 similar to last year, Arizona-based First Solar and TBEA SunOasis from China are expected to install more than 1 GW of additions this year, according to the latest edition of the EPC and Integrator Market Share and Project Market Tracker, published by IHS Technology’s Power & Energy service.

The two companies will focus on completing in-house developed projects in their home markets. Rounding out the top five are SunEdison, headquartered in Missouri, in third place; California-based SunPower in fourth; and China’s GD Solar in fifth.

IHS reports that the vast majority of projects result from "ambitious in-house project developments by the companies, combined with their ability to attract major financiers and investors under favorable domestic incentive schemes."

Josefin Berg, IHS senior analyst for solar demand, adds, "The largest EPC companies build their success on expanding domestic PV demand. The main exception is SunEdison, which is set to install half of an estimated 950 MW of PV capacity outside its home base in the United States."

Of the 10 companies that IHS forecasts will take the top positions in this year’s ranking, six are based in China while four are in North America.

European system integrators Abengoa and Belectric, which made the top 10 last year, failed to make this year’s list. Spanish group Abengoa completed its 246 MW U.S. flagship project, Mount Signal, for 8 Minute Energy in 2013 but won’t match that size of installations in 2014. IHS expects Germany’s Belectric to take 16th place in 2014 as it shifts its focus away from Germany.

European EPCs find shelter in South Africa as domestic markets decline

IHS expects South Africa to grow fivefold in 2014, installing close to 600 MW of PV capacity via projects that were awarded in the first rounds of the national tender.

Spanish construction group ACS Cobra has entered the South African marekt, expanding into PV system integration for SolarReserve. Italian PV system integrator TerniEnergia acquired an EPC contract with Enel Green Power, offering relief from a declining domestic market. While German technology group Siemens Energy has exited the PV market, it is nevertheless completing contracted projects in South Africa for Mainstream Renewable Power. Together ACS Cobra, TerniEnergia and Siemens Energy are installing 70% of total capacity for South Africa in 2014.

"Opportunities in new markets such as South Africa are essential for EPC companies,” says Berg, pointing out that "European PV demand will decline to 10 GW in 2014, so South Africa and new markets represent growth opportunities for the industry."

Other European integrators that have found a temporary harbor in South Africa through major EPC contracts include Scatec Solar, juwi and Gestamp Solar.

Scattered opportunities among integrators in Germany and Italy

In contrast to new major PV markets, where projects larger than 50 MW contribute to the dominance of a few players, developed but declining markets like Germany and Italy boast few champions among system integrators, IHS adds. The pipelines of most integrators in these markets have dried up as a result of small system sizes combined with an oversupply of installers, Berg says.

Enerparc remains one exception, however. The German group installed an estimated 150 MW — half of the 300 MW capacity it put in place in 2012 — through projects in the range of 5 to 10 MW and maintained its leading position in Germany.

Solar pipelines in Italy have withered even more than in Germany, with existing projects spread among the country’s many installers. IHS expects the five largest PV system integrators in Italy to install a combined 45 MW of capacity, "amounting to a measly 6% of the total Italian market."