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Multicrystalline silicon modules to dominate solar PV industry in 2014

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Harmeet
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SANTA CLARA, USA: The production of multicrystalline-silicon (c-Si) solar photovoltaic (PV) modules is set to dominate PV manufacturing during 2014, with p-type multi c-Si technology accounting for 62 percent of all modules produced, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly report.

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Solar PV manufacturers are currently planning to increase module production by 25 percent in 2014, to 49.7 GW of modules, compared to the 39.7 GW of modules being produced in 2013. This is in line with the upgraded forecast from NPD Solarbuzz that end-market solar PV demand will reach 45-55 GW next year.

"PV manufacturers continue to prioritize cost-reduction across the entire c-Si value-chain, with improvements in efficiency coming mainly from higher-quality multi c-Si wafers," said Finlay Colville, VP at NPD Solarbuzz.

"While there will inevitably be short-term supply issues throughout the year, polysilicon and wafer supply is considered adequate for 45-50 GW of c-Si module shipments in 2014. Chinese cell and module suppliers will continue to operate a flexible manufacturing strategy, with new capacity expected to come online during 2H'14."

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Thin-film production will continue to lose market share, declining from 9.4 percent in 2013 to 8.9 percent in 2014. Investments in new thin-film manufacturing equipment declined to an eight-year low during 2013, but are forecast to increase significantly in 2015, as existing suppliers and new entrants into the market add capacity. The top two thin-film suppliers, First Solar and Solar Frontier, will produce almost 85 percent of all thin-film modules in 2014.

Standard p-type multi c-Si modules will continue to be the leading solar PV technology, with 35 percent of PV modules produced in 2014. However, the strongest technology share gains in 2014 will come from the advanced p-type multi segment, which includes double-screen-printing, ion-implanting, selective emitters, wrap-through variants, and rear-surface passivation. This segment will increase from 23.8 percent in 2013 to 27.2 percent in 2014.

While the share of high-efficiency p-type mono and n-type modules is set to decline from 29.6 percent in 2013 to 29.3 percent in 2014, production will grow by 2.8 GW in 2014 due to the overall growth of the industry.

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This increase in high-efficiency c-Si modules is being driven by space-constrained solar PV deployment, characterized by the booming Japanese end-market, and by the strategies of established leading tier 1 suppliers, such as SunPower and Panasonic, that continue to secure premium module pricing levels through the downstream channels.

Leading Chinese c-Si suppliers will continue to increase production of p-type multi c-Si products during 2014, as the fastest route to restoring operating margins to pre-2012 levels. This tactic is complemented by a highly cautious approach to transitioning next-generation technologies from the research lab to mass production.

This dual strategy will continue to be the major barrier to any common technology roadmap being implemented within the solar PV industry over the next two to three years.

Source: NPD Solarbuzz, USA.

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