The development of the photovoltaic industry in China

China is the biggest producer of photovoltaic panels, but far away the biggest user. Let us have a look at the installed capacity of photovoltaic panels in several countries.

(Installation in MWp in the respective year)

Country/year 2008 2009 2010 2011
Australia 104.5 187.6 570,.9 1200.0
China 140.0 300.0 800.0 2900,0
Denmark 3.3 4.6 7.1
Germany 6160.0 9959.0 17370.0 24870.0
France 179.7 335.2 1054.3 2500.0
UK 22.5 26.0 69.8 750.0
Israel 3.0 24.5 69.9
Italy 458.3 1181.3 3502.3 12500.0
Japan 2144.2 2627.2 3618.1 4700.0
Canada 32.7 94.6 291.1
Malaysia 8.8 11.1 12.6
Mexico 21.8 25.0 30.6
Holland 56.8 67.9 88.0
Norway 8.3 8.7
Austria 32.4 52.6 95.5
Portugal 68.0 102.2 130.8
Sweden 7.9 8.8 11.4
Switzerland 47.9 73.6 110.9
Spain 3463.0 3523.0 3915.0 4200.0
South Korea 357.5 524.2 655.6
Turkey 4.0 5.0
US 1168.5 1616.0 2534.0 4200.0
Sum IEA-PVPS 14493 20758 34953
Difference from previous year 6206 6265 14195
-79% -44% -70%
World sum installation (cumulative)  16000  23000  39000  67000


The picture is completely different if we look at the production in different countries. In 2011, Chinese companies produced more than 50% of the installed worldwide capacity. In 2011, roughly 28 GWp in photovoltaic panels have been installed worldwide. Chinese manufacturers can produce more than 14 GWp/year. Only 2.1 GWp were installed in China in 2011. More than 12GWp were exported, mainly to Italy and Germany. How will this situation continue? Let us have a look at the latest Chinese five-year plan.

The latest five-year plan indicated an increase for photovoltaic production from 60 MWp in 2010 to 5 GWp in 2015. This part of the five-year plan was revised in summer 2011 after the Fukushima catastrophe to 15 GWp in 2015. This is roughly the capacity that Chinese photovoltaic producers exported in 2011. Although this may be a big step for the development of the Chinese photovoltaic market, it will not relieve the pressure on the photovoltaic producers in the other parts of the world. China has still a need to export a large portion of its photovoltaic capacity.

What could be the scenarios under these preconditions? What opportunities do foreign companies have to participate on the Chinese photovoltaic market?

In my opinion a foreign company can only be successful in the Chinese market, if it offers something different from the Chinese companies. Foreign companies will be successful in China successful only they have sufficient unique selling points to offer. These unique selling points could include:

–          Special services for private customers

–          Unique efficiency of the installations

–          Special financing programs

–          Innovative technologies (thin films, organic foils)

–          Systems including energy storage

This list could be expanded with further innovative ideas.

Foreign companies should go for these solutions, to disturb the Chinese solar power producers in their market and to hinder them, to build up further capacity of crystal silicon solar cells. This technology will anyhow become a commodity during the next five years.

As described already in previous articles, photovoltaic power will surely become one of the dominating energy sources in our world. At the present time a proper introduction for photovoltaic power in the market has only taken place in Europe, especially in Germany. All the other countries are behind in this development. Photovoltaic energy is a large worldwide market in which the Chinese companies have installed the greatest capacity for crystal silicon solar cells. The distribution of photovoltaic production should be much more equalized around the world. To ensure a change of the trend of Chinese domination, it will require creative ideas from companies in other countries.

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