U.S.-based First Solar became the leading engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company in the global photovoltaic industry, although it is likely to be surpassed this year by China-based TBEA SunOasis, according to a new report from IHS Technology.
First Solar installed a total of 1.1 GW of solar capacity last year, up from 516 MW in 2012. In comparison, runner-up TBEA SunOasis installed 1.0 GW, up from 250 MW, over the same period. However, SunOasis is projected to attain 1.5 GW of installations this year compared to First Solar's 1.3 GW, the report says.
‘After a strong year of installing 22 percent of the non-residential PV capacity in the U.S. and Canada, First Solar remains focused on North America,’ says Josefin Berg, senior analyst for solar demand at IHS. ‘Large-scale projects in the U.S. will make up around 93 percent of the 1.3 GW worth of additions in 2014.’
These projects, Berg says, were acquired in early-stage development and are now being constructed and sold primarily under U.S. investment tax credit policies. To mitigate the risks that arise from dependence on one market, First Solar is building up a global project pipeline through acquisitions and joint ventures, with the company now also claiming 1 GW pipelines each in Latin America and the Middle East.
‘After 2015, depending on the evolution of solar support in the United States, First Solar risks slower growth in PV system integration,’ Berg says. ‘And while the development pipeline in emerging countries has given the company a good start, it will be much more challenging to pursue than home-based projects in the U.S.’
Meanwhile, TBEA SunOasis is thriving on China's rapidly growing domestic market, and its installations of 1.0 GW in 2013 accounted for 10% of that country's non-residential PV additions, IHS reports. While focusing utility-scale projects in China, TBEA is also involved in large solar power projects in Pakistan and elsewhere.
‘TBEA's global reach as a power equipment provider opens up possibilities for EPC contracts in new PV markets,’ Berg says. ‘But because the Chinese domestic market will grow by 31 percent this year, TBEA is also set to keep its systems business growth focused on China.’