Chinese PV suppliers increase global market share

China’s leading PV module suppliers appear unfazed by the potential barriers imposed by trade disputes leveled against its solar products, upping their share of the global supply market by 26% in the second quarter of 2014.

Across Q2, Chinese module suppliers shipped 5.2 GW of modules, finds NPD Solarbuzz in its latest Module Tracker Quarterly report. All of the top six global module suppliers by shipment volume in Q2 were Chinese companies, while 71% of global module shipments were made by the industry’s top 20 suppliers – a league dominated by Chinese, Japanese and American companies.

Recent financials from China’s leading Tier 1 suppliers – including Trina Solar, Yingli Solar, Canadian Solar, Jinko Solar and JA Solar – suggest greater dominance for Q3, especially considering the comparatively weak showing of Japanese companies in Q2 caused by the removal in April of attractive solar incentives.

Navigating the trade dispute

The imposition of preliminary anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar modules by the U.S. in July has not yet had the deleterious effect on Chinese module shipments some may have expected. A number of leading Chinese PV companies had long anticipated such measures, establishing supply strategies designed to minimize the impact of increased tariffs.

ReneSola has been most noticeably active in this sphere, reported NPD Solarbuzz. The Chinese module supplier currently outsources around 50% of its supply to original equipment manufacturing (OEM) partners located elsewhere.

"ReneSola’s outsourcing strategy has made it the leading market supplier to Europe, Australia and India during the past 12 months," said NPD Solarbuzz senior analyst Ray Lian. "Another Chinese supplier, Canadian Solar, also expanded its module facility in Canada, while increasing shipments to its own downstream projects and to Japan, where Canadian Solar’s brand awareness has recently improved."

Before the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) issued its trade announcement, Chinese module shipments into the States reached 1 GW in Q2. In the 12 months prior to the most recent quarter, Trina Solar module imports to the U.S. outstripped those supplied by domestic producer SunPower, and came close to equaling the volumes shipped by First Solar (U.S.) and Yingli Solar (China).

Domestic growth, international expansion

Closer to home the picture looks equally rosy for Chinese PV module manufacturers. The domestic market is led by Yingli Solar, Trina Solar and Jinko Solar, with fellow Chinese producers Hareon Solar, Suntech and JA Solar making up the ‘Big Six’ suppliers in China.

"Leading Chinese solar module suppliers continue to have opportunities to increase shipment volumes," added Lian. "With their domestic market in China forecast to exceed 10 GW in the second half of 2014, different supply strategies are likely to emerge to address local and overseas markets."

China accounts for 29% of all module shipments by leading Chineses suppliers, finds NPD Solarbuzz. Closely following is the U.S., which accounts for 20.9% of all modules shipped, then Japan with 19.8%, Europe with 18%, and the rest of the world receiving 12.3%.

"The amount of solar modules shipped by leading Chinese suppliers last quarter [Q2] was the highest quarterly level ever reached," said Lian. "This growth comes at a time when trade disputes are creating obstacles for Chinese solar suppliers, which suggests that strategies to address the regional markets are being successfully implemented."