23.2 gigawatt/year annualized production rate!When giant solar cell manufacturer SunTech fell into bankruptcy last March, I wrote a kind of mini op-ed on why I think it's possible (even likely) that a young, fragmented industry like solar PV could be very healthy as a whole - with fast innovation, rapid growth, falling prices for the consumer, etc - while individual companies in that industry could struggle financially. The numbers seem to back this up:
Quarterly solar photovoltaic (PV) module shipments for the 20 leading PV manufacturers exceeded 5.8 gigawatts (GW) during the second quarter of 2013 (Q2’13). This record-high module shipment volume represents 21% growth from the Q2’12 level of 4.8 GW.
When the final results become available over the next few weeks they are expected to show that Chinese tier-one manufacturers, including Yingli Green Energy, Trina Solar, Jinko Solar, Renesola, and Hanwha SolarOne broke their quarterly module shipment records in Q2’13. In particular, Yingli Green Energy’s quarterly shipments are expected to have reached 0.8 GW, which would represent a new world record for any single PV supplier.
At some point growth will slow down and there will be a big consolidation in the solar market, with the stronger companies buying their less solid competitors. This should lead to less ferocious competition and healthier profit margins. Good for those companies. But for those who use solar, and for the planet, let's wish that this hyper-competitive environment sticks around for a while longer, because it leads to faster progress, cheaper solar prices, and more gigawatts of capacity installed each year...