U.S. Solar Manufacturing On Fire, Says Analyst
GTM Research’s Shyam Mehtasays solar equipment manufacturing in the United States is likely togrow 50 percent annually from now till 2012, thanks to lots ofgovernment incentives and growing market demand.
Theheady cocktail of generous federal and local government incentives andrenewable energy mandates in the United States could create a newmanufacturing hub in a country that often talks about losingmanufacturing jobs to Asia.
In fact, cell and solar panel manufacturing capacity is likely togrow roughly 50 percent annually between 2008 and 2012, said ShyamMehta, senior analyst at GTM Research, Tuesday at Intersolar NorthAmerica in San Francisco.
The U.S. market demand for solar panels could grow from 342megawatts in 2008 to 2.13 gigawatts in 2012, he added. That appetite isdriving companies such as SolarWorld and Schott Solar, both in Germany,and Japan’s Sanyo to set up factories in the United States.
China-based Suntech Power said recently that it would set up a100-megawatt panel assembly plant, though it hasn’t said where (see Suntech Power Plans to Start U.S. Panel Production in Early 2010).
"The industry’s view is that the U.S. will be a leading market forsupply and demand," Mehta said. "The U.S. is poised to grab a largershare of manufacturing [globally] starting in 2010."
The country produced 499 megawatts of solar panels in 2008, 70percent of which were thin-film panels. Ninety percent of those thinfilms came from factories owned by First Solar and United Solar Ovonic.
Mehta, who provided some key figures from his upcoming report onphotovoltaic manufacturing in the United States, predicted that thecountry will likely produce more than 2.7 gigawatts of cells, as wellas panels, by 2012.
Thin-film manufacturing would play a big role in the growth. By2012, 66 percent of the factory capacity would be devoted to makingthin-film panels, including those that use cadmium-telluride, amorphoussilicon and copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS).
CIGS companies are likely to expand their production capacity from32 megawatts in 2007 to about 1.3 gigawatts in 2012, Mehta said. Hisbullish outlook, which he expressed previously, has raised eyebrowsbecause most of the CIGS companies in the United States are in earlystages of commercial production.
HelioVolt, of Austin, Texas, opened its first commercial factorylast October, but doesn’t expect to reach mass production until 2010(see HelioVolts Delays Mass Production Until 2010). Ascent Solar, in Littleton, Colo., is building its first commercial factory of 30 megawatts (see Ascent Solar Makes CIGS on Plastic).Miasole, based in Santa Clara, Calif., hasn’t given an update of itsprogress since last year. Nanosolar said it started commercialproduction in late 2007, and has since built new manufacturing capacity(see Nanosolar Broke Ground on 1MW Power Plant, Launched German Panel Factory).
Fremont, Calif.-based Solyndra has wowed the world with itsannounced, $2 billion worth of contracts, but it has been mum about itsproduction capacity and volumes (see Solyndra Adds $238M Contract, Brings Backlog Total to $2B). It is receiving a $535 million federal loan guarantee to build a 500-megawatt factory in California.
Mehta argued that it would only take a few successful CIGS companiesout of the current crop of eight to 10 businesses to make a significantcontribution to the solar market in 2012. He conceded that toughchallenges remain for these companies to be able to mass-produceproducts at competitive costs.
He expects a big boost for producing crystalline silicon solarpanels. The factory capacity devoted to making this type of solarpanels could expand from 389 megawatts in 2008 to about 1.23 gigawattsin 2012.
These numbers are based on factory announcements made by variouscompanies, so they could go up significantly to reflect plans thathaven’t been announced. Mehta also accounted for factors such as thetime it takes to bring a new factory from initial to full production inhis calculations.
Image via Solyndra.
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