Major solar PV makers lose despite huge increase in shipment volume

Greentech Lead Asia:In 2012 the solar industry has gone through an unfriendly business climate. Leading solar PV makers reported loss despite significant increase in shipment volume.Decline in average selling price and supply-demand imbalance are cited as the prime reasons for the fluctuating financials of major solar providers like Trina Solar, Yingli Solar and Canadian Solar.

For Trina Solar, a Chinese solar maker, module shipments were approximately 1.59 GW, an increase of 5.4% from 2011; however, total net revenues were $1.30 billion, a decrease of 36.7% from 2011.

Yingli Solar, the solar PV brand of China-based Yingli Green Engery, reported total net revenues of RMB 11,391.9 million (US$1,828.5 million) in 2012, compared to RMB 14,678.0 million in 2011. PV module shipment volume in 2012 was 2,297.1 MW, a significant increase of 43.2% from 1,603.8 MW in 2011.

Suntech, world’s leading solar PV manufacturer based in China, has not revealed the results for 2012. However, in its preliminary estimates, the company revealed it expects 2012 annual PV shipments to be in the range of 1.7GW to 1.8GW, compared to previous guidance of 1.8GW to 2.0GW.

For Canadian Solar, module shipments during the fiscal 2012 were 1,543 MW, up 16.6 percent from 1,323 MW in fiscal year 2011; however, its net revenue was $1.3 billion, compared to $1.9 billion in fiscal year 2011.

Chinese manufacturers were the most affected by recent changes in EU government policies on solar incentives. The U.S.’ decision to implement import tariffs exacerbated their pain. From early 2012, the U.S. government had been collecting those tariffs, ranging from 24 percent to 36 percent from five dozen Chinese manufacturers and up to 255 percent for other Chinese suppliers. This has had a direct impact on their profits.

Many of these Chinese manufacturers are now shifting their focus to emerging markets like South East Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

One of the first casualties of U.S. solar tariff on Chinese manufacturers, Suntech  recently announced it is closing down its solar panel manufacturing facility at Goodyear, Arizona, on April 3, 2013, with forty-three employees affected.

Suntech is now focusing on global restructuring efforts to rationalize production capacity and reduce operating expenses by 20 percent in 2013.

Chinese’s loss is Americans’ win. First Solar, the U.S.-based solar PV maker, is the only one among the major providers to report profit for 2012. The company has reported record net sales of 1.1 billion for the fourth quarter, an increase of $236 million from the third quarter of 2012 and $415 million from the fourth quarter of 2011.

Despite the fallout caused by declining prices and huge import tariffs, the solar industry, especially the Chinese solar makers, is optimistic that the demand will grow further in 2013 though the soft demand environment is likely to persist into early 2013.

“Looking ahead, we believe that the further decrease in module and total system costs will drive increased global demand for the PV industry in 2013, despite the decrease in favorable government policy in traditional European markets,” Jifan Gao, chairman and CEO of Trina Solar, said.

Further the ramping up of PV adoption and planning in new markets within Africa, the Americas and the Middle East will drive the demand for solar panels. Also, governments in other emerging markets like Asia, most notably china and Japan, are strengthening their commitment to solar energy and raising the target for solar power contribution to the national grid capacity. These initiatives are expected to give a thrust for solar in 2013.