REC Group becomes third-largest PV supplier to US residential market

Few companies appear to have profited as much from U.S. duties on Chinese solar PV as REC Group. The Norwegian company, which hosts vertically integrated PV manufacturing in Singapore, began advertising its modules as duty-free, as trade rulings were announced in the summer of 2014. SolarCity also cited this among several factors in announcing a 100 MW supply deal with REC in June 2014.

REC rose to the position of the third-largest solar PV module supplier to the U.S. residential market in the first quarter of 2015, according to GTM Research’s Leaderboard service. The company claims a 14% share in the sector during the quarter, up from 2.7% in the first quarter of 2014. Additionally, REC became the leading supplier to California’s residential market.

“(The trade rulings) certainly did not have a negative impact on our business,” REC Senior VP and Managing Director Arndt Lutz told pv magazine. “It opened the door for some of our customers that we were working with.”

Some of REC’s customers are the largest players in the U.S. residential space, including SolarCity and Sunrun, as well as distributor AEE Solar. However, REC’s sales are not limited to these companies. “We know all the big solar residential installers and have worked with them,” notes Lutz.

Tariffs are not the only advantage REC has, and the company is distinguishing itself from its competitors through its technology. REC is the only major manufacturer to employ passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) technology on multicrystalline solar cells, including in its TwinPeak module series.

TwinPeak was a winner of this year’s Intersolar Award in the Photovoltaics category, and offers 15-20 watts more power than comparable multicrystalline modules. Lutz is quick to point out that not all of this gain is from PERC, noting the half-cut multi-crystalline cells, four-busbar design, and split junction boxes.

Lutz says REC aims for TwinPeak to make up half of its offerings into the residential market, as the company continues to grow its American presence. The company’s U.S. sales rose again considerably to reach 50% of its business in the second quarter of 2015, and Lutz expects to maintain this share throughout the year.

Despite the rise of REC, companies which manufacture mainly in China – Canadian Solar and Trina Solar – still hold top two positions as suppliers to the U.S. residential market. And in a final twist to REC’s gain from Chinese tariffs, in May the company was purchased by Elkem AS, whose parent company is a division of the state-owned China National Chemical Corporation.