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Direct Solar Energy

estimated in 2009 at between 5.4 and 6.1 GW (including 1.5 to 1.7 GW production in the Chinese province ofTaiwan), Europe had 2.0 to 2.2 GW, and was followed by Japan, with 1.5 to 1.7 GW (Jäger-Waldau, 2010b). In terms of production, First Solar (USA/Germany/France/Malaysia) was number one (1,082 MW), followed by Suntech (China) estimated at 750 MW and Sharp (Japan) estimated at 580 MW.

If all these ambitious plans can be realized by 2015, then China will have about 51% (including 16% in the Chinese province of Taiwan) of the worldwide production capacity of 70 GW, followed by Europe (15%) and Japan (13%).

Worldwide, more than 300 companies produce solar cells. In 2009, silicon-based solar cells and modules represented about 80% of the worldwide market (Figure 3.13). In addition to a massive increase in pro- duction capacities, the current development predicts that thin-film-based solar cells will increase their market share to over 30% by 2012.

Production Capacity [MW/yr]






Crystalline Wafer Silicon Thin Films









Figure 3.13 | Actual (2006) and announced (2009 to 2015) production capacities of thin-film and crystalline silicon-based solar modules (Jäger-Waldau, 2010b).

In 2005, production of thin-film PV modules grew to more than 100 MW per year. Since then, the compound annual growth rate of thin-film PV module production was higher than that of the industry—thus increas- ing the market share of thin-film products from 6% in 2005 to about 20% in 2009. Most of this thin-film share comes from the largest PV company.

More than 150 companies are involved in the thin-film solar cell produc- tion process, ranging from R&D activities to major manufacturing plants. The first 100-MW thin-film factories became operational in 2007, and the announcements of new production capacities accelerated again in 2008. If all expansion plans are realized in time, thin-film production capacity could be 20.0 GW, or 35% of the total 56.7 GW in 2012, and 23.5 GW, or 34% of a total of 70 GW in 2015 (Jäger-Waldau, 2009,


Chapter 3

2010b). The first thin-film factories with GW production capacity are already under construction for various thin-film technologies.

The rapid growth of the PV industry since 2000 led to the situation between 2004 and early 2008 where the demand for polysilicon out- stripped the supply from the semiconductor industry.This led to a silicon shortage, which resulted in silicon spot-market prices as high as USD2005

450/kg (USD2005

, assumed 2008 base) in 2008 compared to USD2005


kg in 2003 and consequently higher prices for PV modules. This extreme price hike triggered the massive capacity expansion, not only of estab- lished companies, but of many new entrants as well.

The six companies that reported shipment figures delivered together about 43,900 tonnes of polysilicon in 2008,as reported by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI, 2009a). In 2008, these companies had a production capacity of 48,200 tonnes of polysili- con (Service, 2009). However, all polysilicon producers, including new entrants with current and alternative technologies, had a production capacity of more than 90,000 tonnes of polysilicon in 2008. Considering that not all new capacity actually produced polysilicon at nameplate capacity in 2008, it was estimated that 62,000 tonnes of polysilicon could be produced. Subtracting the needs of the semiconductor industry and adding recycling and excess production, the available amount of silicon for the PV industry was estimated at 46,000 tonnes of polysili- con. With an average material need of 8.7 g/Wp (p = peak), this would have been sufficient for the production of 5.3 GW of crystalline silicon PV cells.

The drive to reduce costs and secure key markets has led to the emer- gence of two interesting trends. One is the move to large original design manufacturing units, similar to the developments in the semiconductor industry. A second is that an increasing number of solar manufacturers move part of their module production close to the final market to dem- onstrate the local job creation potential and ensure the current policy support. This may also be a move to manufacture in low-cost or subsi- dized markets.

The regional distribution of polysilicon production capacities is as fol- lows: China 20,000 tonnes, Europe 17,500 tonnes, Japan 12,000 tonnes, and USA 37,000 tonnes (Service, 2009).

In 2009, solar-grade silicon production of about 88,000 tonnes was reported, sufficient for about 11 GW of PV assuming an average materi- als need of 8 g/Wp (Displaybank, 2010). China produced about 18,000 tonnes or 20% of world demand, fulfilling about half of its domestic demand (Baoshan, 2010).

Projections of silicon production capacities for solar applications in 2012 span a range between 140,000 tonnes from established polysilicon pro- ducers, up to 250,000 tonnes including new producers (e.g., Bernreuther

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