China rules the world on photovoltaic front

Chinese firms are expected to lead the world in solar cell and module manufacturing with an expansion in capacity of 6.4 Gigawatts (GW), accounting for seven out of the 10 largest winners in the industry.

According to iSuppli, Chinese companies are set to expand photovoltaic (PV) cell and module manufacturing extensively in 2010, making up 71.8 percent of the 8.98GW total increase seen across all top 10 manufacturers.

It’s estimated that the PV industry spent a total of $11 billion this year, once spending for ingots, wafers, polysilicon is added according to iSuppli figures.  Sales are driven by the doubling of sales worldwide for solar panels in countries such as Germany, along with the pent-up demand induced by the slowing of capital expenditures in 2009.

“While European countries like Germany are leading the world in solar installations, China has built a dominant position in the manufacturing of cells and modules that are used in these systems.  With Chinese cell and module manufacturers now engaged in a race to expand manufacturing, the country is certain to maintain and expand its dominant position,” said Greg Sheppard, chief research officer for iSuppli.

China is home to the world’s largest PV manufacturer LDK Solar, which will account for 1.42GW of increased capacity, as well as bringing on 1.3W of c-Si module capacity and 120 Megawatts of c-Si cell manufacturing capacity.  “LDK is adding enormous amounts of capacity as it tries to keep pace with fellow Chinese solar suppliers,” said Sheppard.

Norwegian firm Renewable Energy was placed second with 1.09GW of increased manufacturing, with Chinese companies taking the next four positions. “REC is reinvigorating its cell and module business with a giant new campus in Singapore, causing its production capacity to rise,” Sheppard explained.

Chinese firm JA solar leads in term of manufacturing expansion for c-Si cells accounting for 700MW of the total 1GW allocated for that technology.

Thin-film companies expanded manufacturing capacity considerably more slowly this year however, with many having plenty of  manufacturing capacity to absorb already, focusing more efficiency improvements rather than splashing out on new equipment.  It is expected that companies will begin to flash some cash next year though.