China ships 60 percent of world’s PV in first half of 2013

SolarWorld wafers waiting to be installed in modules. In the first half of 2013 shipments of PV modules reached 15 gigawatts with about 60 percent coming from Chinese PV, according to new TrendForce data. The news could spell trouble particularly for European PV manufacturers who aren’t able to compete with the inexpensive modules coming from China.

It also appeared that of the 54 gigawatts of PV module capacity 60 percent of it was Chinese. In fact, EnergyTrend found that, “Among the top ten manufacturers, only First Solar was not a Chinese manufacturer.”

Already a growing number of solar manufacturers in Europe have filed for bankruptcy or are seeking to reorganize. “For example, Solarezo, Conergy, and Gehrlicher all filed for insolvency and some manufacturers have started business restructuring,” TrendForce stated. SolarWorld has also run into problems in Germany and is seeking to restructure.  Meanwhile Panasonic plans to close its module plant Hungary in September.

“The future for PV manufacturing in Europe is worrisome due to the government subsidy reduction, high manufacturing cost, and competition from cheap Chinese products,” TrendForce’s EnergyTrend research division said. Chinese modules were being manufactured at 19 to 22 cents per watt, whereas European manufacturers were at least 27 percent higher in manufacturing costs. The low manufacturing costs made the the cheapest price for Chinese PV as low as 54 cents per watt, while the least expensive modules from other countries were costing 66 cents per watt. “Moreover, Chinese manufacturers can get a refund on export tax, thus the price for Chinese products would be about 30 percent cheaper in European market,” the company said.

EnergyTrend also noted that Chinese modules are continuing to gain traction in Europe as countries reduce their incentives for solar. Among them Germany, Italy and Spain—the leading markets for solar on the European continent have all reduced their incentive programs are likely to continue to do so. “With European governments continuously cutting the subsidies, in order for system investors to receive higher [returns on investments], Chinese modules have become the first choice for manufacturers,” Energy Trend said.

The European Union, largely due to the lobbying efforts of SolarWorld, has enacted tariffs against Chinese PV, since China has been found to be in violation of international trade laws for subsidizing its manufacturers. Similarly the U.S. has enacted tariffs against Chinese PV, but thus far it appears that China is outcompeting by underselling the competition. That said, however, the price drops of PV, which have forced some manufacturers out, are appearing to stabilize compared to the last few years.