Solar Panel Manufacturers have kept on increasing globally, due to the fast growing nature of the industry and low entry barriers. However most of the solar panel manufacturers have high costs and low quality. Most of these producers have little growth prospects and are a bad choice to buy from as they might go belly up. This would lead to a void of the 25 year warranty of the solar panels. So it makes sense only to buy from the biggest and best solar manufacturers in the world. Solar Panel Manufacturers are present in most parts of the world with Korea, China, Taiwan, USA, Japan and Germany dominating. However small solar panel producers are also present in most countries like Spain, Greece, India etc. Solar Panels are of mainly 2 type – crystalline and thin film. Most of the solar panels produced today are of the crystalline type and are mostly used in residential rooftops. Thin film panels are mostly used in large ground solar power plants. Thin film solar panels are of lower efficiency and are lower priced as well. However falling costs of crystalline solar panels has led to their increasing dominance.
Solar Panels can be compared somewhat to PCs with most of the equipment and parts being common to most of the solar panel manufacturers. Though there is a large difference in both these products,note there is little difference between a HP and a Dell computer. Most of the parts going into a PC like Intel chips Memory are sourced from outside and common to almost all brands. Same is the case with solar panels with the raw materials polysilicon and equipment used to make the solar panels being mostly common. There are a number of big solar panel manufacturers. The best ones are not necessarily the biggest ones.
Here is a list of the biggest solar panel producers:
1. Motech – The company which used to be a pure play cell producer has expanded into polysilicon, modules and wafers. It is one of the oldest solar cell companies in Taiwan and faced tough times in 2008 post the GFC. TSMC owns a stake in this company. The company bought a solar module facility in the US and is starting polysilicon production at its subsidiary AES Polysilicon.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Trina Solar – Trina Solar is one of the lowest cost manufacturers of Solar Panels in the World right now 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Solarworld - Solarworld is the Biggest German producer of solar panels, the company is one of the few to still have operations in Europe and USA. The company has been battered by low cost competition. However Solarworld is strongly expanding in USA as growth slows down in Germany. Solarworld is also entering the polysilicon sector through a JV with Qatar. Only Western company not to have a major factory in Asia.
9. First Solar – First Solar is the only Solar Thin Film Manufacturer in the world and a benchmark for other thin film companies thinking of making it big. The company was promoted by Wal-Mart promoters and has seen remarkable growth in the last few. This US based company uses Cadmium Tellurium (Cd-Te) Technology and is the lowest cost panel producer in the world today if you don’t include any penalty for low efficiency. Even if you penalize the Cd-Te Technology for its lower efficiency vis-a-vis the higher efficiency crystalline technology, First Solar is clearly the leader with a core cost of 74c/watt. The company has a roadmap of reducing the cost to 52c/watt by 2014 and given its track record it seems quite achievable. There is little doubt about First Solar’s ability to survive and flourish due to its massive first mover advantage.
10. Sharp – Sharp, the Japanese Zaibatsu known more for its Electronics Products is also the world’s No 1 Company in terms Solar Module Revenues. Despite its leadership in c-Si Technology, it has shifted focus to a-Si thin film due to higher costs. Sharp has started shipping a-Si modules from its 1 GW capacity plant in Sakai. With its established distribution strengths and technological abilities in LCD Technology, Sharp is one company that can survive the c-Si onslaught. With most of the a-Si thin film competitors bankrupt or in a moribund state, Sharp can capitalize to completely capture this space. However the cost structure of Sharp is not clearly known right now to make a clear call on how this will turn out. Also a 10% efficiency while decent for a-Si technology fall far short of the 13% claims by CIGS start-ups like Miasole.
11. Sunpower - Sunpower produces the highest efficiency crystalline solar panels in the world. This is a US company like First Solar and has a strong system installation business as well. An offspring of Cypress Semiconductor, it faced tough times due to its higher costs. However seems to be on a recovery path. Failed to expand as rapidly as the Asians in 2010.
12. Renewable Energy Corporation – It is Norwegian manufacturer of mainly polysilicon and wafers and is completely integrated. It suffered like other Europeans from the decline in solar panel prices. The company has moved manufacturing to Singapore to lower its cost. However, it fell down in the rankings due to tough competition.
13. Panasonic/Sanyo – Sanyo is the producer of high efficiency solar panels and like Sharp sells mostly in Japan and USA. With buyout by Panasonic is looking to sell integrated energy efficiency/energy storage/solar energy home solution.
Other GWI Articles that you should read:
- Germany Solar Energy Market World’s Biggest – Green Subsidies fuel growth German Photovoltaic Panel,Cell,Inverter Manufacturers
- China Solar Booming- Chinese Solar Panels Prices,Cost,Review,Best Manufacturers(Trina,Suntech)
- Taiwan Solar Energy Challenging China – Taiwanese Solar Cell,Wafer,Panel,Inverter Manufacturers following the Semi Success Path
- Korean Solar Energy Set to Explode due to the Greenest Government and Chaebols Hanwha,Hyundai,Posco,Samsung,LG
- Japan Solar Energy – Future Growth driven by METI and 7 Zaibatsus (Sharp,Panasonic,Mitsubishi,Honda,Mitsui,Toshiba,Kyocera)
- Advantages of Solar Energy – Declining Cost the Biggest One