While the major solar energy companies are expanding rapidly as the solar industry grew by almost 150% in 2010,a number of non-solar MNCs have gotten into this sector.The massive growth of solar industry which has been vastly underestimated by policymaker and analysts have not been hidden from these giant companies.While a number of these companies have been present since a long time,some are entering the growing solar energy field for the first time.Some like BP have lost the plot and become minor players despite being top companies a few years ago.Shell has totally left the solar energy field selling its plant to Motech.Asian conglomerates and semiconductor companies have been the most aggressive in entering this area.Chemical companies too have shown interest in building polysilicon plants which build on their core competence.Others have entered the Solar Thermal Energy Field which reinforces their traditional strengths in building power plants and EPC work.Here is list of the top non-solar companies entering the solar sector.
Polysilicon or refined silicon is the raw material behind most of the world’s consumer electronics.Polysilicon is used to make both solar and semiconductor silicon wafers.Silicon wafers are used in making chips which are used by the Intels and Samsungs of the world while Solar Wafers are used in making solar crystalline panels used in generating electricity from the sun.Most of the world’s major solar energy companies used c-Si Technology in making solar panels.Polysilicon is an energy intensive process which requires cheap electricity.The polysilicon is produced mostly in the western countries like Japan,USA and Germany now.However the rise of solar panel producers in Asia has given rise to large volume Asian producers of polysilicon as well.Note Polysilicon production is concentrated in the hands of 8-9 companies unlike solar panel production which is done by hundreds of companies.This is a capital intensive process and requires around 2 years to complete a single plant.Semiconductors require higher purity levels of Polysilicon than the solar industry.The massive increase in demand from the solar industry has led to massive growth in poly production.Here are a list of the main polysilicon companies in the world
Solar Wafer Companies are mainly concentrated in Asia specifically China and Taiwan.Cheap labour,lower land and capital costs as well as presence of major customers has made China the No.1 Solar Wafer Producer in the world.Despite most of the polysilicon being produced in Europe and USA,China leads the way in wafer production.Note semiconductor wafers in contrast are mainly produced in the developed countries like Japan,USA and Germany.The structural forces of the crystalline silicon industry is forcing vertical integration with cell producers making wafers and wafer production companies making cells.However there are a few companies which predominantly concentrate on supply solar wafers to solar cell manufacturers.Here is the list of the main solar wafer producers which have shown stunning growth in the last few years.
Crystalline Solar Cell Suppliers are fast disappearing due to the changing dynamics of the global c-Si Solar Panel Industry.With vertical integration becoming imperative as margins and prices get squeezed,independent solar cell suppliers are having a tough time.Increasing raw material costs in terms of higher polysilicon and solar wafer prices and competition from numerous players has decreased the number of pure play solar cell suppliers.However a few of the top solar cell producers continue to grow and flourish though they are also entering into other segment of the PV solar supply chain.Most of the independent solar cell suppliers are from Taiwan and some from China.European solar cell producers have mostly disappeared due to the high cost base of the European factories.Note this list is mostly composed of solar cell producers who don’t have big module making operations.You can find a list of the top solar energy companies most of which make solar cells as well.
Solar Thin Film Technology has been growing rapidly despite falling costs of the mainstream Photovoltaic Crystalline Silicon Technology.While a number of Weaker Hands in Thin Film have downed shutters,Thin Film Producers continue to grow and expand.The massive growth potential of Solar Energy makes it possible for both of these PV technologies to flourish.Thin Film Technology unlike c-Si has a number of variants.Amorphous Silicon (a-Si),Copper Indium Gallium Sulphide (CIGs) and Cadmium Tellurium (Cd-Te) are the 3 main types of Thin Film Technology.There are a number of manufacturers of all of these 3 types of Technology.CIGs Technology is said to have the most potential in improving efficiency and competing with c-Si,however Cd-Te is currently the top dog as the world’s biggest solar producer First Solar currently uses this technology.a-Si Technology is not that hot with low efficiencies however Oerlikon and Sharp are pushing ahead with developing this technology.Here is a list of the world’s top Thin Film Companies.