PHOTON International has released the results of its annual cell production survey, noting that global solar photovoltaic (PV) cell output increased 118% in 2010 to 27.2 GW, with a global production capacity of 36.6 GW at the end of the year.
The report also noted the increasing dominance of China in cell manufacturing, where 47.8% of all cells were produced in 2010.
Suntech, JA Solar surpass First Solar in production
PHOTON surveyed 199 PV manufacturers for the survey, and it estimates a 10% margin of error, largely due to outsourcing and incomplete responses. It notes that the growth in cell production in 2010 is the largest in the 12 years that it has surveyed, with the previous record for annual growth at 85% in 2008.
In 2010, Suntech Power Holdings Company Ltd. (Wuxi, China) and JA Solar Holdings Company Ltd. (Zhabei, China) both surpassed 2009 industry leader First Solar Inc. (Tempe, Arizona, U.S.) to become the world's #1 and #2 cell producers at 1.58 GW and 1.46 GW respectively. JA Solar's rise is particularly impressive, as the company rose from sixth place in 2009 with a 181% annual increase in production.
Japan, Germany lose market share
Overall, the share of multi-crystalline silicon grew to 52.9% of all cells produced, with thin-films slipping to 13.1%. Behind First Solar, the largest thin-film manufacturers were Sharp Corporation (Osaka, Japan) and United Solar Ovonics (Auburn Hills, Michigan, U.S.).
However, perhaps most striking are the regional trends. China's gain in production share, from 38.1% in 2009 to 47.8% in 2010, comes at the expense of Japan and Europe. Japanese cell manufacturing fell from 12.4% to 8.5% of the total produced during the year, while Germany's share fell from 15.4% to 9.8%.
Oversupply predicted for 2011
PV cell production capacities closed on a year-end total of 36.6 GW, more than double estimates of the 2010 market. Cell manufacturers predict further growth in 2011, with individual estimates that total 51.4 GW during 2011, and projected capacity expansions which will bring the industry to 66.6 GW.
However, with market analysts predicting modest or even flat growth in PV markets in 2011, even a fraction of that growth will result in a profound oversupply.