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Solar Frontier looks to be a winner in the Global Solar Shakedown

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The solar industry is going through a major consolidation with hundreds of small and big solar companies failing despite growing solar demand. The reason is massive over capacity created mainly by China. This has resulted in many of the big companies like Q-Cells going down under the weight of billion dollar losses. However, even as thin film companies have died like flies, one company Solar Frontier has managed to thrive, with sales of more than $800 million in 2012.

Read more about Solar Frontier Module Reviews on GWI.

This Japanese company is now the only large commercial supplier of CIS thin film solar panels. Other CIGs startups like Miasole have either given up or are in the process of giving up Nanosolar. TSMC has announced a big investment into CIGs solar thin film production process, however we have yet to see any activity. First Solar the biggest thin film game in town is surviving solely due to its system business and the DOE funded highly profitable solar farms.

Solar Frontier has the support of two big parent companies and has the balance sheet strength to survive this trough. Other companies don’t have the werewithal to manage the large losses being seen.


Solar Frontier strengthened its position as the closest thin-film PV module manufacturer competitor to First Solar in 2012, posting record revenue of US$833 million (JPY78.2 billion). The Japanese CIS thin-film technology leader reported an 18.9% increase in sales for the full year. The company reduced its operating loss to JPY15.4 billion in 2012, a JPY13.4 billion reduction from the previous year. Solar Frontier posted an operating income of 15.4 billion yen in 2012, up by 13.4 billion yen compared to the previous year. Significantly, the company reported a small operating income of JPY0.1 billion for the fourth quarter of 2012, the first time the company has reported positive quarterly operating income since starting manufacturing operations in 2010. The company also highlighted its success in overseas markets as Solar Frontiers CIS thin-film modules were used on PV projects by NRG Solar LLC and EDF Renewable Energy, formerly enXco in the US.

The company had halted production at its smaller 60MW No.2 plant as the Kunitomi plant ramped capacity, also supporting cost reductions. Currently, No.2 plant is being considered as an advanced R&D facility for new products. Solar Frontier is said to be producing in volume CIS modules with 13% conversion efficiencies. In 2013, the company expects to further grow its solar business, though did not give guidance for its energy solution business. The company is also building a presence in the downstream EPC and project development sector with partnerships in its domestic as well as overseas markets.

Second Wave of Solar Thin Film Bankruptcies Starts – Suntech ends CSG Solar funding

Suntech announced that it would cut off funding for CSG Solar a German maker of thin film solar panels which it bought a few years ago. Crystalline Solar on Glass technology was being used by CSG but evidently the costs were not coming down fast enough. This is the first time that a thin film company is being shut down in recent times. Expect a huge second wave of thin film shutdowns to start as silicon panel prices have come down to as low as $1.3/watt. Energy Conversion Devices which in 2008 boasted of almost $3 billion in capitalization is being priced for bankruptcy as its share price has plummeted by 98%. The only thin film players who could survive are Solar Frontier (Backed by Big Parents like Shell and Showa) and Sharp. It remains tough for small standalone companies like Miasole, Nanosolar to survive the current competition in which established solar companies are facing existential problems. Here is a list of top global thin film companies, expect a number of these companies to go out of business or get acquired  soon. The main reason is that the the costs of thin film solar panels are still too high and efficiencies too low as compared to the mainstream silicon solar panels.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

One Response so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Solar Frontier ????????????

    Solar Frontier will be in the top 3 module manufactures in the next years. It has Japanese quality, high efficiency and increased energy yield. Their price is also below average so it has also value for money and aesthetics. You can have a look installations with Solar Frontier panels here :