Longi, JA Solar, Jinko Solar – anyone who deals intensively with the topics of solar and photovoltaics has very likely stumbled upon these well-known manufacturers while researching or purchasing PV products. Other manufacturers such as Trina Solar and First Solar should not be completely unknown to you. The market consists of a good number of large well-known manufacturers as well as a few small and lesser-known manufacturers. But which manufacturer can convince on the market. We do not want to find this out on the basis of production capacities and product portfolios, but will consider three basic economic factors:
- financial health
- PV market presence
Our analysis is based on the Exawatt Power Score ranking from 2020. The ranking published by the research and consulting company Exawatt is now a third-year study that compares PV module manufacturers on the basis of debt, profitability and market penetration. We would also like to include the investigations by the analysts Alex Barrows and Molly Morgan, which are the subject of the PV magazine, in relation to this ranking in our comparison.
Longi, JA Solar and Jinko Solar – the leaders in the PV industry
The PV industry has seen significant consolidation in recent years. Individual parts of the value chain such as the production of polysilicon and monocrystalline wafers have been dominated by a relatively small group of manufacturers for some time. With the help of the following figure, Exawatt published the top 10 mono wafer manufacturers in 2020, which have increased their combined market share in mono wafer production from 80% in 2015 to 98% in 2020.
Within this figure it can be clearly seen that the market share is increasingly concentrated on a few large manufacturers. The focus here is primarily on the Chinese giants Longi, JA Solar and Jinko Solar. It can be assumed that this trend will continue in the years to come. The trend towards large wafer formats is increasing steadily. The leading manufacturers in particular bring new products onto the market every month, so that the product portfolios are becoming more and more confusing and the product roadmaps more and more diffuse. This trend leads directly to smaller manufacturers such as Chint and Risen Energy being pushed more and more from the market. These manufacturers usually lack the ability and willingness to provide capital for new production capacities.
Longi Solar – leaders at various levels
The following figure shows once again very clearly that the three Chinese giants, measured in terms of financial health, profitability and PV presence, compared to a large number of other manufacturers, could still not be displaced from the top 3 places.
We can clearly see from this figure that Longi also showed a large lead over the other major manufacturers. With these measurements, however, we must not disregard the fact that these values ??say nothing about the quality of the individual products. In addition to becoming the largest module manufacturer in the world by both shipments and capacity in 2020, Longi has a healthy financial position and strong profitability that builds on its significant wafer business and access to low-cost in-house wafers for its own Module is due.
Right behind Longi was JA Solar for this measurement from 2020. Besides Longi Solar, JA Solar is the only manufacturer to achieve a positive score in all three standardized metrics. Its PV presence has been increased primarily through its rapid expansion in both deliveries and capacity.
Jinko Solar and Trina Solar are also two large manufacturers that should be named, who did quite well in this measurement.
DMEGC, GCL System Integration and Talesun – companies that cause surprises in this comparison
The Chinese company DMEGC, which was expected to be one of the lower places in the table, caused a positive surprise. At the end of 2020, this manufacturer had a module capacity of only 1.5 GW. It also has a relatively modest expansion plan for 2021-22. A module capacity of 2 GW is planned for this. The high ranking of DMEGC in sixth place is due to the strong financial position and profitability, which are well above the average of the other solar module manufacturers examined. The company owes this position to other business partners who increased DMEGC’s market capitalization.
In contrast to DMEGC, larger manufacturers such as GCL System Integration and Talesun caught the eye rather negatively within this table view. Both manufacturers are below average and it seems like they weren’t fully utilized in 2020. However, they both continue to drive capacity expansions for 2021.
Both at GCL System Integration and at Talesun, the new capacity expansions enable a higher production output of the larger modules (based on M10 and G12 wafers), which will dominate the market in the coming years. Time will tell whether these expansions will boost sales of the two manufacturers and whether they will be able to reach higher table positions in the ranking for 2021.
With the help of the following figure we give you an insight into the combined market shares (according to production) of the top 10 manufacturers within the polysilicon, wafer, cell and module production.
What forecasts can we make for 2021?
According to Alex Berrow, research director at Exawatt and Molly Morgan, research analyst at Exawatt, Longi can be expected to achieve its enormous 40 GW module delivery target for 2021 and therefore not by the first in the power rankings for 2021 Space can be displaced. However, this does not apply to Jinko Solar. Due to the capacity expansion at the manufacturers JA Solar and Trina Solar, it is expected that Jinko could be pushed out of the top 3 of the table list. Risen Energy and Canadian Solar are also planning significant module capacity expansions this year and could therefore move up the rankings.
In addition, the Exawatt employees note that the current high sea freight costs and increasing concerns about energy security as well as possible human rights concerns in the PV supply chain could benefit the few non-Chinese manufacturers in the ranking. Should this prove to be a major trend, we could see a return to a more fragmented market (especially for module manufacturing) and more newcomers to the rankings. However, according to Berrow and Morgan, any shift in the market in this direction is likely to have limited overall impact in the near future.
N-type cell technology will lead to possible market shifts by 2025
N-type cell technology is unstoppable and has seen very strong growth in the PV market in recent years. Exawatt also deals with this technology within its forecasts. For this reason, it is expected here that the n-type cell will approach the manufacturing cost of the p-type mono PERC cell in the period from 2023 to 2025. This convergence could lead to a major market shift that would be analogous to the transition from Multi-BSF to Mono-PERC.
Small manufacturers in particular are currently making increasing use of these technologies in order to be able to differentiate themselves on the market. Large manufacturers, on the other hand, are also setting up pilot lines or small series productions in order to iron out final production problems before a large-scale distribution of the products can be rolled out in the coming years. The TOPCon and HJT-n-Typ-Technology primarily gives new players the opportunity to enter the cell and module market in the future by using the need for completely new cell lines and fragmenting the market.
The PV market is subject to constant change. Large manufacturers continue to follow the individual trends and are constantly trying to bring top products onto the market and adapt to the circumstances. It will not be easy to drive the giant Longi from his first place. However, it may well be possible that smaller manufacturers in particular will make the leap to the top with the help of new and innovative technologies. Factors such as the climate crisis, price increases, raw material shortages, respect for human rights and much more represent a challenge for all manufacturers and require agile solutions. We are excited to see how manufacturers will face the constantly changing challenges and position themselves in the future. The ranking compiled by Exawatt for the year 2021 will most likely be able to identify new trends and clearly illustrate the change. We look forward to telling you about it.
Alex Barrows and Molly Morgan – Primary Magazine; Power players; 07/08/2021; https://www.pv-magazine.com/magazine-archive/power-players/