Current Production Plans and Demand Outlook Suggest Oversupply Will Be Maintained into Next Year

Production Cutbacks Insufficient to Prevent Solar Module Inventory Buildup

News Release by | SolarBuzz News

Continued solar module overproduction will lead to sustained price pressure across global photovoltaic (PV) markets, already reeling from factory gate prices now down 33% Y/Y, according to conclusions in the latest Solarbuzz Quarterly report issued today.

Preliminary analysis from Solarbuzz shows Q3'11 global demand growing by less than 1% Q/Q, but up 20% Y/Y. European markets are projected to account for 58% of Q3’11 global demand, down from 78% in the same quarter last year. Among the largest PV markets, the US and China are seeing the fastest rates of growth among major markets in Q3’11.

While some manufacturers have started to cut back their production and shipment plans, tier-one Chinese companies have maintained their full year shipment guidance. If manufacturers meet their 2H’11 guidance, global shipments are forecast to exceed end-market demand by 4.4 GW.

Price cuts have started to stimulate 2H’11 end-market demand, but to date, this has occurred more slowly than expected. “Anticipating that falling prices could stimulate demand by year-end, downstream companies across Europe face the unnerving decision of whether to build inventories at the end of Q3’11,” said Craig Stevens, President of Solarbuzz. “Any over-estimate of that demand ahead of an expected 15% German feed-in tariff reduction at the start of 2012 would likely result in further year-end inventory write-downs.”

After taking into account the changing supply mix, crystalline silicon factory-gate module prices are now projected to fall 18% in Q4’11 Q/Q, reflecting both price and supply mix changes. These reductions will also stimulate large cuts in thin film prices in Q4’11. Meanwhile, Q2’11 gross margins for the major cell, wafer and polysilicon manufacturers have already dropped on average by more than 50% compared to the prior quarter.

Heading into 2012, the industry is braced for another challenging year. Analysis in Solarbuzz Quarterly shows manufacturers are preparing to raise cell capacity by 50% over 2011 levels, while end-market demand is forecast to increase by less than half that level.

Stevens added, “This is a strikingly similar equation to the supply/demand balance that existed 12 months ago and resulted in collapsing prices through the PV chain. In contrast, though, margins are already at a breaking point, thereby increasing the likelihood of more company consolidations and liquidations next year.”

Failure to cut back production will result in soaring module inventory levels to almost 22 GW by the end of next year. In order to maintain the same level of inventory days as projected for the end of 2011, forecast production would need to be cut back by approximately 11 GW.

Figure 1. Global PV Demand and Cell/Module Inventories

Source: Solarbuzz Quarterly report

The latest data-driven Solarbuzz Quarterly report brings together a comprehensive analysis of industry production, shipments, inventory, market demand, and the total price picture. The report also includes corporate data for leading company quarterly cell production and company data through the PV chain, along with financial indicators. For more information or to order Solarbuzz regional reports, contact us at one of our seven global locations, email us at contact@solarbuzz.com, or call 1.516.625.2452.

About Solarbuzz
Solarbuzz, part of The NPD Group, is a globally recognized market research business focused on solar energy and photovoltaic industries. Since 2001, Solarbuzz has grown its client base to include many of the largest global PV manufacturers, major investment banks, equipment manufacturers, materials suppliers, hedge fund companies, and a vast range of other multi-nationals. Solarbuzz offers a wide array of reports, including Marketbuzz, an annual global PV industry report, and Solarbuzz® Quarterly, which details both historical and forecast data on the global PV supply chain. The company’s research also provides annual downstream PV market reports by region for Europe, Asia Pacific and US markets. In addition, Solarbuzz.com is a recognized and respected online resource within the solar industry.

About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 1,800 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps our clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, commercial technology, consumer technology, entertainment, fashion, food and beverage, foodservice, home, office supplies, software, sports, toys, and wireless. For more information, contact us or visit www.npd.com and www.npdgroupblog.com.


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