China was the largest solar market in the world in 2013, besting a hotly contested field that included Japan, the United States and Germany, and Chinese manufacturer Yingli Green Energy was also the globe’s foremost supplier of solar modules for the second year in a row.
In all, the four countries accounted for two-thirds of worldwide PV demand last year, according to the latest analysis from IHS Technology “IHS Solar PV Integrated Market Tracker – Q4 2013.” Yingli, based in the northeastern province of Hebei near Beijing, was a dazzling, high-output producer in three of those four markets. Shipping more than 3 gigawatts (GW) of solar modules last year, the Chinese maker expanded its share of the market to 8.3 percent, up from 7.4 percent in 2012 when it was already the world’s brightest solar player.
Overall in 2013, Yingli was the No. 1 producer in both China and Germany, second in the U.S., and ninth in Japan, as shown in the attached figure depicting shipments for the first three quarters of last year. “A strong footprint in each of the world’s leading PV markets was the basis for the phenomenal growth behind Yingli,” said Stefan de Haan, principal analyst for photovoltaics at IHS.
In China, Yingli’s solar module shipments amounted to 625.3 megawatts (MW) from the first to the third quarter in 2013, ahead of other Chinese-based rivals like Trina Solar and Jinko Solar. Yingli was also the leader in Germany, long the world’s top PV market but ranked fourth last year. Shipping an estimated 583.9 MW of solar modules, Yingli was more than double the size of closest competitor Trina. And although impacted in Germany by the antidumping trade conflict, Chinese solar suppliers continued to maintain significant activity in the German market, with five out of that country’s Top 10 suppliers based out of China. Only two suppliers in that elite circle—SolarWorld and Conergy—were German.
For the United States, the No. 3 PV market in the world, Yingli came in second after Arizona-based First Solar. The U.S. photovoltaic market grew by more than 50 percent in 2013, and Yingli’s total shipments of 479.8 MW represented just 70 megawatts short of First Solar’s delivery.
The only market where Yingli did not place within the Top 3 was Japan, the world’s second-largest solar space, where Yingli ranked ninth after homegrown producers like Sharp and Kyocera. Foreign suppliers do not have an easy time entering the Japanese solar space, even though entry barriers there are not as high as in China.
After turning around in the first half of 2013 from a decline in 2012, solar markets worldwide continued their recovery as last year came to a close. Driven by strong demand in Asia, global PV installations rose to 9.2 gigawatts in the third quarter, up from 8.7 GW in the second. As a result, global solar module shipments increased accordingly to 10.1 GW during the period, an all-time high as shipments exceeded 10 GW in a single quarter for the first time ever. Then in the fourth quarter global PV installations grew to 10.6 GW, and shipments rose as well to 10.3 GW.
The global PV industry can expect further robust expansion this year, likely at double-digit levels. However, some growth momentum could be lost during the course of the year as the Chinese and Japan markets experience decelerating growth following an installation boom in 2013.
“Such expected movements this year imply that the relatively healthy situation PV manufacturers experienced in the second half of 2013 will persist in 2014,” de Haan observed. “However, IHS does not expect any further significant improvement in profits and margins at this time beyond the levels achieved in the first two quarters of last year.”