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Asian electronics giants crashing PV party

February 22, 2011 - Samsung and TSMC are among a new wave of Asian electronics giants seeking to translate their know-how in cost-conscious markets and manufacturing efficiencies into a slice of hot solar PV marketplace pie, notes IMS Research.

Asia's share of PV cell production will rise from 80% in 2010 to nearly 85% by the end of this year and is only going up, writes PV analyst Sam Wilkinson in a research note.

On the heels of rapid 2010 expansion, coupled with lower incentive rates and slowing installation growth, there are some concerns of a module oversupply situation, and Tier 2 suppliers will find it especially difficult to offload products. Nevertheless, over the next four years IMS still sees demand growing by double-digits (on average), and this is luring "a continuous stream of hopeful new entrants" -- the most successful of whom will probably be the major Taiwanese and Korean consumer electronics manufacturers.

Several of these giants have already begun their expansions into the solar PV arena. Korean electronics juggernaut Samsung is now in a polysilicon JV with MEMC (through a subsidiary). Display maker AUO has broken ground on a 1.4GW cell JV with SunPower (and also is building a solar wafer hub). Even chip foundry TSMC is expanding its PV interests into both c-Si and thin-film with investments and partnerships involving Motech, Stion, and Centrosolar.

All these firms share a common set of advantages: large-scale production in related fields, access to and willingness to invest significant capital, and those put together equals low-cost high-volume production, writes IMS' PV analyst Sam Wilkinson.

With many suppliers seeing a lull in shipments and weak demand at least in early 2011, the arrival of large electronics suppliers offering competitively-priced PV components "is likely to add some further obstacles for existing suppliers in an already volatile market."

PV cell production in Asia. (Source: IMS Research)


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