Crystalline silicon (x-Si) PV modules comprise the largest and most established portion of the photovoltaic (PV) module market, holding roughly 81% of the global PV market in 2008. These x-Si modules also have significant penetration in all sizes of grid-tied applications – from residential to large-scale utility installations.
A handful of large, top-tier manufacturers dominate the market, but smaller start-ups with differentiated technologies are still entering. As the module oversupply rolls through 2009 and 2010, some crystalline silicon module manufacturers will be at the heart of the shakeout.
Examining the performance of companies in this technology area, we find that:
- Large corporations with differentiated technologies are among the strongest performers.Many of the highest ranking companies are large corporations that stand out due to top-level high-efficiency products and large corporate backing. Their backing provides support for module warranties, capacity expansions, pricing battles, and technology development.
- New competition from low-cost manufacturers is driving down the value of European leaders. European module manufacturers with high-quality x-Si module technologies are beginning to struggle as module production becomes increasingly commoditized. Their quality advantage is beginning to slide as new low-cost manufacturers gain access to higher-quality materials, dropping their scores on technical value scale.
- Even with promising technologies, start-ups face formidable barriers to growth. The most successful pure-play solar firms got an early start in the market, and offer either differentiated technologies, sharp business execution, or both. New entrants to the solar market need more than a novel design or slight technical advantage to succeed. Companies building capacity, especially those based on a novel technology, score lower than those with existing capacity because they must play catch-up with more traditional and established manufacturers. The outlook is increasingly bleak for start-ups with unique technologies that are yet to build production capacity.