Shipments to the first buyer are expected to grow by at least 25 percent in 2015 to 49.7-GWp, with production at 50-GWp and utilization (using production as the metric) at 96 percent. At the end of 2015, module assembly capacity is expected to be 61-GWp.
At the end of 2015 demand is booming, with manufacturers reporting that they are sold out and announcing strong quarterly shipments. Announcements are misleading. Expectations of annual shipment growth based on announcements from manufacturers and module assemblers could lead to an expectation that close to 60-GWp will be shipped in 2015.
Using Canadian Solar for an example, the company has ~1.9-GWp of cell capacity, ~3.8-GWp of module assembly capacity, and has announced shipments of close to 4-GWp for 2015. Assuming no finished module inventory (unlikely) at the beginning of 2015, Canadian Solar can only ship 1.9-GWp of in-house manufactured modules. If the company reports 3.8-GWp of shipments at the end of the year, it bought 1.9-GWp of cells from another source. Both sources will have reported the cells as shipped. In this example, PV industry shipments would be oversized by 1.9-GWp.
Shipment activity is high in 2015 driven by a variety of factors. Some of these factors are:
- Deployment in China is high driven by government mandate
- The rate of module failure and replacement is accelerating
- Manufacturers (particularly in China) added more module assembly capacity than cell manufacturing capacity
- Upcoming changes to important incentives in the U.S., the U.K. and Japan are driving accelerated activity
Figure 1 depicts shipments to the first buyer in the global market for PV modules alongside annual installations. In some years installations are greater than shipments; this is the supply/demand inventory effect. There are several different ways to analyze PV industry growth. The data in Figure 1 presents shipments to the first buyer. This buyer can be an installer, EPC, developer, end user, another manufacturer, or, another entity.
Figure 1: Global Shipments to the First Buyer, 2010 through 2015 Estimate