China ramps up solar manufacturing

By Todd Woody
November 23, 2010


China’s increasing domination of a rapidly expanding solar module industry is revealed in a report that shows that Chinese companies are expected to account for nearly 72 percent of new photovoltaic manufacturing capacity this year.

For instance, China’s LDK Solar will add the most new capacity in 2010 with 1,420 megawatts coming online, according to iSuppli, an El Segundo, Calif., technology research firm.

Norway’s REC took second place with 1,090 megawatts of manufacturing capacity expected to be added by year’s end.

But Chinese companies held seven of the top 10 positions on iSuppli’s list, representing 6,445 megawatts of manufacturing capacity.

Suntech Power Holdings will add 1,025 megawatts while JA Solar will expand manufacturing by 1,000 megawatts. Yingli Green Energy will add 800 megawatts of capacity by the end of the year while Trina Solar Energy will install an additional 700 megawatts.

“I go to Shanghai every six weeks and the scale of the operations is just jaw dropping, absolutely jaw dropping,” Conrad Burke, chief executive of Innovalight, a Silicon Valley solar company, said in a recent interview.

Innovalight itself abandoned plans to manufacture its own photovoltaic panels in late 2008 and now licenses a patented “silicon ink” to JA Solar and Yingli that boosts the efficiency of their solar modules.

“There’s nothing in California that even comes close to the scale in China,” said Burke.

In fact, earlier this month, Solyndra, a Silicon Valley startup that makes thin-film solar panels, announced it would shutter an existing factory in Fremont, Calif., and delay plans to expand a new manufacturing plant built with a $535 million federal loan guarantee. The company cited competition from low-cost Chinese manufacturers as a major factor in its move to scale back production.

“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,” Greg Sheppard, iSuppli’s chief research officer, said in a statement “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.”

The other two non-Chinese solar manufacturers on iSuppli’s top 10 list were Canadian Solar and Motech, a Taiwanese company.

The research firm estimates that total global spending on photovoltaic production equipment will be around $11 billion for 2010

(Photo courtesy of Todd Woody.)


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Innovalight has ssen the light. Green energy manufacturing in the US will take a back seat to other low-cost countries when it comes to producing the hardware. The only hope for US green energy manufacturing is to supply technology and buy cheap, outsourced materials.

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