PV Tech’s preliminary analysis of global PV manufacturing capacity expansion announcements in December 2016, indicate that only highly selective plans, primarily in relation to solar cells rather than module assembly are being made.
Total capacity expansion announcements in December reached only 1,900MW, down from 2,500MW in October.

Dedicated crystalline silicon solar cell expansion plans totalled 1,500MW, identical to the November figure. Dedicated crystalline silicon module assembly plans reached only 400MW. No thin film or integrated crystalline silicon cell and module assembly plans were announced in December, a trend that continued throughout the fourth quarter of 2016. 

Indeed, the lack of integrated crystalline silicon capacity expansions extended throughout the second half of the year.

A key trend throughout the fourth quarter of 2016 was the selective solar cell capacity expansions which topped 3,800MW, compared to only 1,400MW on module assembly announcements. This is in contrast to the previous quarter when dedicated module assembly plans reached 1,700MW and dedicated solar cell plans were only 520MW. 

Through until late December, any capacity expansion announcements looked highly unlikely and would have reflected the significant curtailment in plans seen throughout the second half of the year due to overcapacity fears. 

December was saved by several reasonably large expansion plans, notably that of ‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member GCL System Integration Technology (GCLS) teaming with Vietnam-based OEM producer, Vina Solar Technology to establish a 600MW solar cell plant at Vina’s Bac Giang facilities in Vietnam. GCLS also said that around 330MW would be PERC (Passivated Emitter Rear Contact) based cell technology. 

The GCLS expansion follows plans by another SMSL member, JA Solar groundbreaking ground in November on a 1,500MW solar cell plant in the same industrial zone of Vietnam as well as a 600MW cell expansion at JA Solar’s existing plant in Malaysia back in October, 2016. 

However, the announcement that garnered the most attention in late December was the plans by Panasonic to establish solar cell and module assembly operations within Tesla/SolarCity/Silevo’s Buffalo fab in New York State. 

Although PV Tech plans to analyse this announcement separately and in detail shortly, we have attributed an estimated 400MW to 500MW capacity figure to the plans that seriously lacked any specific details except a Panasonic investment said to around US$256 million.

PV Tech also estimated that solar cell expansion plans by Neo Solar Power (NSP) in December could amount to around 500MW, despite the lack of nameplate figures from the company. The estimated figure is due to around 500MW of existing cell capacity in Taiwan shifted to Malaysia earlier in the year and therefore potentially has the space available for this scale of expansion. 

On a geographical basis, December mirrored fourth quarter developments which were dominated by continued capacity expansion plans in South East Asia, notably Vietnam and Malaysia and a sprinkling in Taiwan. 

However, despite US-based Mission Solar closing its 200MW solar cell line in San Antonia, Texas in October, capacity restructuring at First Solar and SunPower the expansions by Panasonic and Suniva/Shunfeng (SFCE) (October 2016), indicate that the US could add over 1,300MW of combined cell and module assembly capacity in 2017. There had not been any planned expansions in the US through the first nine months of 2016.

PV Tech will be providing a detailed overview of capacity expansion plans announced in 2016 shortly.

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