Chinese companies lead global solar developer rankings

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GTM Research has published its annual rankings of the world’s largest developers, which reflect China’s leading role in the global PV market.

The two top companies by installed capacity are based in the Chinese market, with State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) taking the top spot with more than 7 GW of cumulative installations, and GCL New Energy at more than 5 GW.

However, looking to the future the picture is less clear. GCL still has the largest announced pipeline at over 7 GW, but is followed by companies active primarily in the U.S. market: Canadian Solar and First Solar. French oil giant Total, which owns SunPower and Eren, comes in fourth place.

There is some nuance to these rankings. GTM’s report does not look at SPIC’s pipeline, as it does not closely examine companies active in only one market. Furthermore, the report was published before the final ruling on Section 201 duties by the Trump Administration, which may affect U.S. project pipelines.

This ruling does not pose any challenges for First Solar building out its nearly 5 GW pipeline, as the company’s thin film products are not covered under the scope of the Section 201 case. However import duties may be a barrier for both Canadian Solar and Total.

Canadian Solar’s modules will be subject to 30% import duties whether made in Canada or China, as will SunPower’s back-contact products, which will be more disadvantaged due to their higher price and the ad valorem nature of the tariffs. SunPower has reported that it has stored 3 1/2 to 6 months of tariff-free modules for its distributed solar business, but its ability to supply utility-scale projects is less clear.

Among the top 10 developers by installed capacity, only three – Engie, Enerparc and Lightsource – have substantial capacity in Europe.

This reinforces a key finding of GTM Research’s report – that the rise of markets in Latin America, India and other developing nations is re-shaping the global developer landscape. In terms of Latin America, Italy’s Enel Green Power has the largest pipeline, but this is also a market where First Solar, Total, Canadian Solar, EDF and other companies are active.

Additionally, there is the possibility that Canadian Solar and Total will step up their development activities in other markets, due to the competitive disadvantage of products made by their manufacturers in the United States due to the Section 201 tariffs.

 

Correction: This article was corrected at 16:10 CET on February 16. The earlier version of the article identified a much smaller pipeline for GCL, due to pv magazine being supplied with outdated information. We regret the inaccuracy.