As PV Manufacturing Shifts To Asia, Module Prices Are Dropping

Pricing pressure for solar modules will result in a growing share of production taking place in Asia as suppliers seek to drive down PV module manufacturing costs, according to an ongoing analysis from IMS Research.

Over 70% of module production capacity is projected to be located in Asia in the final quarter of this year, and Asia's share is forecast to continue growing steadily throughout 2011 as manufacturing expansion in the region accelerates.

Booming demand throughout 2010 has resulted in high shipment growth and limited pricing pressure for the module industry. However, as the over-heating German market begins to show signs of cooling, PV suppliers across the entire supply chain are becoming increasingly focused on reducing their manufacturing costs, according to the report.

Many suppliers have recently announced ambitious cost reduction plans, all of which have a common theme – an increasing proportion of production taking place in Asia, IMS Research says.

For instance, REC recently announced that its fully automated Singapore-based wafer, cell and module production lines will be capable of producing modules for 0.97 euros/W by the end of 2011. Evergreen Solar plans to produce modules for $0.90/W by the end of 2012 at its Chinese facility – ambitious plans given that its costs at its U.S. plant were more than twice that in the third quarter of 2010, at $1.88/W, IMS Research says.

‘It is essential that PV costs continue to decline in order for PV to become a more sustainable industry that is less reliant on subsidies, and seemingly inevitable that manufacturing will shift to Asia, much as it has done in almost every other high-volume electronics market,’ says Sam Wilkinson, a PV research analyst at IMS. ‘Large Chinese manufacturers are currently leading the industry in crystalline PV module cost reduction, and other Western suppliers are joining them by moving their own production to Asia.’

In transitioning its production to Asia in a bid for low-cost manufacturing, the PV industry is simply following in the footsteps of every mature electronics market, the report says. Regardless, the move appears to be happening remarkably quickly, and IMS Research predicts that before the end of 2011, over three-quarters of global PV module production will take place in Asia.

SOURCE: IMS Research

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