Updated on 1st October, 2012.
China’s Solar Industry is the biggest in the world with 5 of the biggest Solar Panel Manufacturers being Chinese. The low costs of Chinese Solar Panels have made them capture almost 40% of the world’s market in 2010 up from almost 0% in 2005. The remarkable growth in the Chinese Solar Panel Industry has been due to the supportive Government, low labor and capital costs and aggressive competition. This has made the higher cost solar panel manufactures cut their prices in order to retain their marketshare. Trina Solar has shown the best growth amongst the solar panel producers and it now competes with Suntech which is the world’s biggest solar panel producer. China has also got a number of Tier 2 and Tier 3 producers of solar panels. These small solar panel companies sell mostly in the spot market and quote very low prices. The quality of the solar panels of smaller companies is also suspect. Due diligence and Review of Solar Panels is necessary in order to Buy Solar Panels from China.
Chinese Solar Panel Manufacturers
There are many Chinese Solar Panel Manufacturers as the costs of setting up a Solar Panel Plant is quite low at around $5 million for a basic solar module line. However there are only a few big Solar Panel Companies which have capacities running into hundreds of Megawatts per year. There are also a number of big State Owned (SOE) Chinese conglomerates that are entering the Solar Panel Industry.
Here is a list of the Best Chinese manufacturers of Solar Panels:
1. Suntech – Suntech was the world’s biggest producer of solar panels in 2010 and was one the first companies to set up operations in China. Its example was followed by a host of other Chinese companies. Suntech has been slow to expand compared to the fast growing small companies in China and has lost marketshare to them. It has started to vertically integrate in order to meet the low cost challenge from Trina and Yingli. Suntech makes one of the best quality Solar Panels in China.
2. Yingli Green Energy - Yingli Green Energy is one of the oldest Chinese companies and is completely integrated from polysilicon. The company has been expanding rapidly and has one of the lowest cost structures in the industry. Yingli Green Energy has been sponsoring Football in Europe and has started a new line of high efficiency “Panda” Solar Panels. Yingli is the second biggest producer of Solar Panels in China.
3. Trina Solar – Trina Solar is one of the lowest cost manufacturers of Solar Panels in the World and also sells it at a very low price. This is the reason that the company in a span of few short years has managed to acquire a substantial global marketshare. The prices the solar panels being sold are around $340 per 200 watt module. Trina Solar. Like Yingli and Suntech, Trina Solar Panels are one the best quality in China.
4. Hanwha Solar One - The Company which was recently acquired by South Korean Chemicals Giant Hanwha also makes one of the cheapest panels and sells it a very low price. The quality is also quite good and with strong parentage behind it, the solar panels made by the company. Again like Trina Solar, it has very low cost Chinese manufacturing capacity. The company was earlier known as Solarfun.
5. Canadian Solar – The Company sells a wide variety of solar panels unlike other producers. The Solar Panel Selling Price is also quite cheap. The Company is headquartered in Canada with factories in China and Ontario. Canadian Solar is the 5th biggest producer of Solar Panels in China.
6. LDK Solar - This is the biggest producer of solar wafers that are used by crystalline solar panels but is losing its No.1 position to GCL Poly. It is expanding rapidly into other parts of the solar supply chain and could break into top 10 solar panel producer in the next couple of years. LDK Solar is building a huge solar panel and cell production facility. It sells Solar Panels mostly to other Solar Panel Companies.
7. Renesola – Very similar to LDK Solar in operations and structure, this Chinese company is the lowest cost producer of solar wafer producer in the world. It is expanding into other parts of the supply chain.Like LDK Solar, Renesola sells most of its Solar Panels under an OEM Contract.
8. Jinko Solar – Jinko Solar has shown the fastest growth rates in the Chinese Solar Panel Industry. The company is expanding again to become one of the Top 5 Solar Panel Producers in China. Jinko Solar like Trina and Yingli is vertically integrated and has one of the lowest cost solar panel production process.
9. Trony Solar - Trony Solar is the largest Solar Thin Film Producer in China and uses a-Si Technology to producer Solar Panels used mostly in Off-Grid Applications. The company uses its own custom made equipment and manages to get decent margins for its products. The company recently listed on the HK Stock Exchange.
10. ET Solar - is a quasi vertically integrated solar equipment manufacturer with presence in Europe, North America and Australia. ET Solar offers high-quality modules, inverter, tracker, BIPV, PV Kit and other solar products in more than 50 countries and regions in the whole world. Worldwide more than 500MW projects are already finished.
11. CNPV – is one of the bigger Tier 2 Chinese solar panel manufacturers with its factories based in China. It makes solar wafers, cells and finally the panels in-house. The company was started in 2006 with a factory in Dongying and listed on the NYSE Euronext. The company manufactures a wide variety of both monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon modules ranging from 10W to 305W.
12. CEEG – or China Electric Equipment Group Corporation is based in Nanjing, China and is a China state owned company. CEEG is one of the top 15 Chinese solar module manufacturers and sells solar panels under the CEEG Brand. CEEG Standard modules are designed for both residential and commercial, rooftop and ground-mounted, as well as on-grid and off-grid photovoltaic projects. They sell monocrystalline solar panels under the 125 and 156 series which indicates the size of the solar wafers used to make these solar modules.
13. Sunlink – Solar Panels are manufactured by a small company Jiangsu Sunlink PV Technology Co. Ltd. based out of China with module production capacity of 200MW. SunLink PV was founded in 2004 and they sell 5W to 300W both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. They have IEC61215 Ed.2, IEC61730, UL1703 certificates.
14. Talesun – is an international manufacturer of solar cells and modules. The photovoltaic solar cells and modules are manufactured in China in the world’s largest, fully automated production plant. The manufacturing plant is expected to reach 2 GW of capacity by the end of 2012. The company manufactures both monocrystalline modules, with output between 170W – 310W and polycrystalline modules, with output between 220W – 310W. Their quality is certified through international standards and certificates like IEC 61215ed.2, IEC 61730 & UL1703.
15. Hareon – came into existence in 2004 & today has a workforce of over 10,000. In 2011, its solar cell capacity exceeded 1.7 GW, and its module capacity reached 900 MW. It is listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. It manufactures mono-silicon & polysilicon modules with a stable output of 18V/24V direct voltage. It also designs cells, wafers & crystalloids.
16. Chint Astroenergy – founded in 2006, the company is the first large scale producer of high-efficiency thin film PV modules in mainland China, and has been a trusted provider of monocrystalline and polycrystalline PV modules. Astronergy is a provider of monocrystalline modules, polycrystalline modules, and high efficiency a-Si/µc-Si tandem junction thin film modules. Astronergy’s parent company, The Chint Group is a leader in low-voltage electrical power transmission & distribution industries. Very recently, Chint-Astronergy completed a 50MW solar PV power plant in Bulgaria.
Also Read on GWI Solar Panel Reviews of some of these companies:
Types Of Solar Panels -
Silicon Solar Panels
- Amorphous Silicon – Amorphous Silicon (a-Si) is the smaller cousin of the Polycrystalline Solar Panels, the main difference being the amount of silicon being used on top of the glass substrates. Amorphous Silicon uses a fraction of the Silicon that is normally used in silicon solar panels. This means that the weight and cost of the solar panel is lower however the efficiency is also much lower. Earlier this technology has a lot of backers but after Applied Materials the biggest semiconductor equipment company abandoned this technology, most a-Si companies have gone under. However some companies like Sharp, Astroenergy are still backing this technology. Oerlikon the Swiss company has made improvement like introducing tandem junction to increase the efficiency.
- Micro-crystalline Tandem solar panels – A new generation of micro-crystalline tandem solar panels with far higher efficiency than the amorphous type has been developed in the past 2-3 years. The substrate for the tandem type is identical in size to the substrate for the amorphous type. The micro-crystalline tandem solar cell consists of a micro-crystalline solar cell placed on top of a conventional amorphous solar cell. Companies like Sharp, Mitsubishi are selling such types of solar panels in the 50-150 Watt range.
- Polycrystalline Silicon Solar Panels – Polycrystalline Solar Panels are the most used Solar Panels on the planet. These Solar Panels are made out of Polycrystalline silicon which can be as much as 99.9999% pure (also known as 4N pure, the 4 denotes the number of 9s after the decimal point). Polysilicon was primarily used by the semi industry till 5-6 years ago and the electronic industry used 9N pure polysilicon. These panels have an efficiency of between 13%-17% depending on the quality of the Solar Cells being used. When you go out to buy normal solar panels, this is the solar panel that you will typically get from your solar panel retailer. Note they are available in a wide variety of power ratings going from as low as 5 watts to 250 watts or more. It is possible to buy very cheap Polycrystalline Solar Panels due to the Solar Oversupply in the market.
- Monocrsytalline Silicon Solar Panels – Monocrystalline Silicon Solar Panels give the highest efficiency and have the highest costs of production as well. During Polysilicon Manufacturing, it is possible to grow pure silicon made of a single crystal. The solar panels made out of this single crystal of pure silicon is called monocrystalline solar panel. Solar Cells Efficiency can vary from 18% to 24% for the normal monocrystalline silicon technology. Sunpower makes the highest efficiency crystalline solar cells on a commercial scale. Sanyo is the other company which makes the most efficient Monocrystalline cells. Suniva is challenging the two with a low cost process for making high efficiency monocrystalline solar cells.
Non Silicon Solar Panels
- Cadmium Tellerium (Cd-Te) Solar Panels - These solar panels are produced by the largest solar panel selling company First Solar. Other companies like GE and Abound Solar are also trying to produce solar panels using this technology. While concerns were raised about usage of Cadmium which is toxic, NREL has verified that the Cd-Te compound does not pose any danger to humans and environment. Note Cd-Te Solar Panels are cheaper than silicon solar panels as they have lower efficiency (which means they need more area to generate the same amount of electricity). These types of solar panels were earlier used mostly in ground mounted solar farms.However with increasing efficiency they are being sold for installation of residential and commercial rooftops (FS-3) as well. This technology has around 12% efficiency though GE has said that it has managed to attain 15% efficiency on commercial glass. Don’t know how much of it is true since First Solar only manages around 12% efficiency despite around 10 years of dedicated R&D.
- Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide (CIGs) Solar Panels – This Thin Film Technology has the highest Solar Cell Efficiency and a number of established companies like TSMC, Q-Cells, Honda and startups like Miasole, Nanosolar, Solyndra are using this technology. However its production is not easy as four different materials are used. Miasole has been claiming to have achieved an efficiency of 13.8%. General range is between 11-14%. Note Solar Shingles being sold by Dow and Uni Solar also use this technology as its weight is much lower than normal silicon solar panels. CIGs Technology is also used in making flexible thin solar panels which can be used for camping, BIPV and other applications where weight is an issue.
Other types of solar panels which are in niche production are organic solar panels made by Dyesol, Copper Zinc Tin Sulfure Selenium (CZTS) Solar Panels being developed by Solar Frontier-IBM, Multijunction Solar Cell Panels developed by Emcore, Boeing and others.
Different Power Ratings of Solar Panels
Solar Panels are available in such a wide variety of power ratings that it can confuse a layman on what size of solar panel to buy for his home use. For small uses like charging a iPod or a laptop a small 5-20 Watt solar panel will do. However if you want to use solar energy to power your house you would need higher power solar panels with ratings of 150-250 watts. If you have a smaller rooftop area then you would need to invest in higher rating and higher efficiency monocrystalline solar panels. There are also solar panels which come in different colors like Black Solar Panels from Sunpower. You also have to take into account the weight that your roof can take. If it can take only a small weight then you may need to buy amorphous silicon or CIGs solar panels which have high efficiency to weight ratios.
The most commonly used solar panels come under 5 watts, 20 Watts, 50 watts, 100 watts, 150 watts, 200 watts, 240 watts.
Chinese Solar Panel Prices and Costs
Note the Chinese Solar Panel Prices at around 60-80cents/watt are the lowest in the world and are sold at a substantial discount to the European and American Solar Panels. These days Solar Panels are also being outsource to China by bigger companies in the West to take advantage of the low cost Chinese Solar Panels..The Prices of Solar Panels can fluctuate a lot depending on the global supply/demand and was around $1.65/watt in 2011 beginning. However the prices have come down by around 20-30% .
Effects of The US Anti-dumping Policy
The imposition of the US government’s anti-dumping duties against the Chinese solar panel companies, has led to a vociferous protest from sections of the Chinese government. The total quantum of duties will reach around 35-36% for most the Tier 1 Chinese solar panel players. Many Chinese polysilicon companies have closed down due to their higher costs due to stiff competition from non-Chinese players. The Chinese government has a big reason to retaliate against the US solar poly companies now that its solar panel organizations have been hit. The overall effect of the duties on Chinese solar panel companies will not be that big as they already have plans to circumvent the US duties which have been prepared long time ago. All it would do is raise the prices of the solar panels slightly .It would not make the surviving US solar panel companies competitive as the Chinese solar panel prices are far below that of US made solar panels. US Solar equipment companies like Applied Materials and GT Advanced Technologies too might face the ire of the Chinese government and companies who could look at alternatives in Europe.
There are other major solar panels manufacturers in China like BYD, Astroenergy, Hanlong, Goldpoly, Eging, Tianwei, Sunzone etc. which are setting up large gigawatt scale solar panel capacity. The existing Solar Panel Producers in China will have a tough time as the competition grows domestically as well as from other Asian like the Koreans and the Taiwanese. However currently Chinese Solar Panels are No.1 in the world in terms of volume and fast catching up in quality as well. The Chinese Solar Market is also growing rapidly as the Chinese government awards subsidies for setting up pilot plants in different provinces. However a lack of national feed in tariff like Germany is hindering the growth.
Other Greenworldinvestor articles
- Cheapest Solar Panels – Which Companies Sell at the Lowest Price and Why you should avoid Distributors/Wholesalers
- Solar Panels in India – Complete Guide on Buying Low Cost PV Panels from Solar Energy System Manufacturers
- Taiwan Solar Energy Challenging China – Taiwanese Solar Cell,Wafer,Panel,Inverter Manufacturers following the Semi Success Path