Suntech Power was the largest supplier of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules by shipment volumes for the second consecutive year in 2011 as Chinese manufacturers tightened their grip on the market, according IMS Research.
Despite challenging market conditions throughout 2011, Suntech became the first supplier to ship over 2 GW of solar PV modules, and topped IMS Research's module rankings for the second year in a row.
The only non-Chinese manufacturer ranked in the top five was US-based solar thin-film supplier First Solar, which was ranked as second largest supplier, also for the second year running.
Chinese suppliers Yingli, Trina and Canadian Solar (considered as a Chinese supplier as the majority of its operations are based in China) all gained one place in the rankings to make up the rest of the top five, displacing Japan's Sharp to sixth position.
IMS Research also found that the solar PV module supplier base consolidated considerably in 2011 with the largest suppliers collectively gaining share of the market.
"Leading suppliers were able to leverage their strong brands to grow their shipments in highly competitive market conditions in 2011," says Sam Wilkinson, Senior Market Analyst at IMS Research. "2011 claimed a number of victims, but nearly all of the top-10 suppliers grew their shipments and collectively they accounted for nearly half of total industry shipments."
Although 8 of the 10 largest solar PV suppliers grew their annual shipments by more than 10%, most suppliers recorded lower shipments in Q4'11 compared to the previous quarter.
"Despite a very strong end-of-year rush to install in Germany, high inventory levels for PV modules in the supply chain meant that this was not reflected in suppliers' shipments. The rush also came later than many expected and so many suppliers were not able to capitalise on this," Wilkinson says.
Growing Chinese dominance
Canadian Solar and Trina Solar were amongst the few suppliers that bucked this trend by increasing their shipments in Q4'11, with Canadian Solar becoming the third largest solar PV supplier in the quarter and increasing its annual market share by over one percentage point.
Another significant market share gain allowed Chinese-based Jinko Solar to become the only new name in IMS Research's top 10 suppliers in 2011. Having more than doubled its annual shipments, Jinko Solar was ranked as the seventh largest module supplier in 2011.