27% Annual Growth Seen for Global Solar Cell Market

Aug 19, 2008
Yukiko Kanou, Nikkei Electronics

The global solar cell market will grow at an annual rate of 27% on average until 2012 to ¥4.6751 trillion (approx US$42.5 billion), 3.9 times larger than in 2007, according to the survey conducted by Fuji Keizai Co Ltd.

The solar cell market was ¥1.2008 trillion (approx US$10.9 billion) in 2007.

Polycrystalline silicon solar cells accounted for nearly 90% of the market in 2007, but the presence of solar cells that use a small amount of silicon or no silicon at all will strengthen, Fuji Keizai said. The focus will be placed on thin-film silicon, CIGS and CdTe (cadmium telluride) thin-film solar cells, in particular, according to the company.

The thin-film silicon solar cell market was ¥57.8 billion in 2007. Fuji Keizai expected the market to grow 9.7 times larger to ¥559.5 billion in 2012. Given low material costs and the small number of manufacturing processes, large cost cuts are expected for the thin-film solar power, the company said. Tandem solar cells will grow among amorphous silicon solar cells, which are well-known, Fuji Keizai predicted.

About 100 companies are planning to enter the market, with 10 to 20 of them already starting production. Many of the manufacturers currently preparing volume production lines will also begin rolling out their solar cells before long, it said.

Of overall solar cell production, Japanese manufacturers accounted for a majority stake until 2006, but were outpaced by overseas manufacturers in 2007. Japanese manufacturers are likely to continue to be outperformed from now on, with production by US, German, Chinese, Taiwanese and Indian manufacturers steadily increasing, according to Fuji Keizai.

The CIGS solar cell market was ¥12 billion in 2007. The major players in the current market are Wurth Solar GmbH of Germany, Global Solar Energy Inc and Nanosolar Inc of the US, Showa Shell Solar Co Ltd and Honda Soltec Co Ltd. Aided by demand primarily from Europe, orders at players in the market are reportedly favorable.

With products being sold out one to two years ahead of production at some manufacturers, the market will expand by as much as each manufacturer increases production, according to Fuji Keizai's analysis. The company forecast the market will grow 25 times the size in 2007 to ¥299.8 billion in 2012.

Despite short supplies of indium concerned for the future, "CIGS solar cell and indium manufacturers are not expecting to run short of indium," Fuji Keizai explained.

The CdTe thin-film solar cell market was ¥63 billion in 2007. The products are not sold in Japan, because no Japanese manufacturer handles them. In addition, CdTe solar cells contain toxic materials.

Among overseas manufacturers, First Solar Inc of the US is nearly unrivaled in boosting production, according to Fuji Keizai. First Solar's solar cells sold for the lowest prices among solar cells marketed in 2007, it said.

First Solar manufactured its products in Germany and the US in 2007, starting production in Malaysia as well from now. First Solar is planning to proactively increase production, because it must leverage advantages of scale due to the fact that it is difficult for CdTe solar cell manufacturers to secure their superiority through other measures than a low manufacturing cost.

The CdTe solar cell market is likely to expand for some time with emerging manufacturers planning to start volume production as well. Fuji Keizai estimated the market will grow 4.2 times as larger as in 2007 to ¥266 billion in 2012.