U.S.-based First Solar delivered on expectations in 2013 to become the leading Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) company in the global photovoltaic (PV) industry, even though it is likely to be surpassed in 2014 by Chinese EPC TBEA SunOasis, according to a new report from IHS Technology.
First Solar installed a total of 1.1 GW of solar capacity last year, up from 516 MW. In comparison, runner-up TBEA SunOasis installed 1.0 GW, up from 250 MW, as shown in the attached table. But with SunOasis projected to attain 1.5 GW of installations this year compared to First Solar’s 1.3 GW, TBEA SunOasis has the potential to sail to the top among global PV integrators.
These findings are contained in the report, “IHS PV EPC and Project Market Tracker,” from the Power & Energy service of IHS.
“After a strong year of installing 22 percent of the non-residential PV capacity in the U.S. and Canada, First Solar remains focused on North America,” said Josefin Berg, senior analyst for solar demand at IHS. “Large-scale projects in the U.S. will make up around 93 percent of the 1.3 GW worth of additions in 2014.”
These projects, Berg said, were acquired in early-stage development and are now being constructed and sold primarily under U.S. investment tax-credit policies. To mitigate the risks that arise from dependence on one market, First Solar is building up a global project pipeline through acquisitions and joint ventures, with the company now also claiming 1-GW pipelines each in Latin America and the Middle East.
“After 2015, depending on the evolution of solar support in the United States, First Solar risks slower growth in PV system integration,” Berg noted. “And while the development pipeline in emerging countries has given the company a good start, it will be much more challenging to pursue than home-based projects in the U.S.”
Meanwhile, TBEA SunOasis is thriving on China’s rapidly growing domestic market, and its installations of 1.0 GW in 2013 accounted for 10 percent of that country’s non-residential PV additions. This year, the power equipment manufacturing group will continue growing its PV systems business, with expected additions to reach as high as 1.5 GW. While focusing on utility-scale opportunities in China, TBEA is also involved in power projects in markets such as Pakistan, where it is undertaking the construction of a 100-MW PV plant in 2014 and 2015.
“TBEA’s global reach as a power equipment provider opens up possibilities for EPC contracts in new PV markets,” Berg remarked. “But because the Chinese domestic market will grow by 31 percent this year, TBEA is also set to keep its systems business growth focused on China.”
Global PV project pipeline at 140 GW and growing
The IHS Global PV Project Database, which consists of nearly 30,000 projects, shows that the global PV pipeline has now reached 140 GW, up 5 GW since February 2014. Of the 140 GW in the pipeline, 21 GW are either under construction or have signed power purchase agreements (PPA), with the remaining projects at various levels of planning.
“It is obvious that a large chunk of these pipeline projects will never be built,” Berg said. “Developers have to compete for PPAs, grid access, permits, and not least—financing. What is important, however, is that IHS can spot those countries where PV deployment can take off quickly given the right conditions.”
With 34 GW of announced projects in planning and 5 GW under construction, North America boasts the largest PV pipeline. This is due to both the large number of projects involved and the size of the projects proposed. The average size of the projects in the database equates to more than 25 MW, with over 80 projects that are 100 MW or larger in development.
Latin America, meanwhile, has the largest pipeline of PV projects in comparison to its installed capacity, with nearly 15 GW of projects in development. This includes a pipeline of more than 4 GW in Brazil and 7.5 GW in Chile.
The IHS Global PV Project Database also currently includes more than 29,000 non-residential PV projects across the world totalling 175 GW. The projects cover those that are in development, are under construction or have been completed.
— Solar Builder magazine