Solar industry declining worldwide with a massive supply glut

The solar business continues to plummet world wide. Does anyone see the disconnects in this picture?

The purported world’s leading solar technology company, SunPower Corporation, headquartered in San Jose, California, cut 900 jobs and 17% of its global workforce in October as its shares had fallen 47% over the past year. The company is majority owned by France’s Total SA. Reuters reported:

… as overcapacity continues to cast a shadow on solar equipment makers. The solar panel industry has been hit by excess capacity and waning demand with top consumer Europe cutting back subsidies for green power. Prices have tumbled about 30 percent this year, virtually erasing profits across the industry….

A number of solar companies have begun to cut production, but analysts say more cuts are needed to balance supply and demand. Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd., the No.1 solar panel maker, slashed production capacity last month, while First Solar Inc. cut output of its thin-film solar panels earlier this year. A number of other players have been operating their plants at reduced rates.

“Industry wide production capacity exceeds global demand by roughly two times, so much more rationalization is needed,” said analyst Molchanov. He said production cuts were needed particularly in China, which accounts for over half of the world’s panel production.

China Daily’s business section reported a similarly dismal picture of the solar industry in China last week, writing:

More than half of China-listed solar firms project a profit slump in 2012, further hitting the industry with a severe supply glut. By Monday, 53 of the 79 A share-listed solar firms had released earnings forecasts. Of them, 29 foresee a drop in net profit, accounting for 55 percent. These companies project a profit decrease of 12 percent.

The solar photovoltaic industry publication, PV Insider, just issued its latest intelligence brief, reporting that more solar module price drops were expected worldwide for 2013:

The weakening demand for solar modules in Germany is expected to impact the global solar market further in 2013 as global solar module prices continue to slide south, according to new research from IHS. Other solar markets, such as Greece and Bulgaria are also seeing a drop in module installations in the past month.

IHS said that Chinese c-Si module prices in Europe were expected to decline by 1.1% in November. The decline is a record drop, said the report, with September and October seeing a decrease of between 1.9 per cent and 3.5 per cent across China, Europe, the US and Japan….


Eight solar research projects have received funding under the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Open 2012 programme. The projects selected come from universities, industry and national labs and will be awarded a combined $14 million…

Last Monday Reuters reported that SunPower, and rival company First  Solar, had unveiled plans to expand in China, which, it said, “is expected to be among the top solar markets in the world next year.”

In SunPower Corp.’s press release last Monday about the joint partnership it had signed with three companies in China,  it said:

Under the terms of the definitive agreement, SunPower will invest $15 million, of the total capitalization of the joint venture of $60 million, for 25 percent ownership stake…

“This agreement capitalizes on the capability of SunPower’s next generation C7 technology to deliver industry leading cost effective energy,” said Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO.”… [W]e believe that we can deploy significant volumes of C7 power plants to help serve China’s growing need for clean power. We also expect that this venture will facilitate the development of a low cost, high volume C7 supply chain and accelerate our C7 cost reduction roadmap.”

SunPower Corporation announced this morning that it partners with 14 federal agencies in renewable energy projects across the United States and on two continents for the U.S. government, including Nells Air Force Base, to secure “our nation’s security and competitiveness.” It is not only among the companies approved by the EPA as a quality service company, it is “compliant with the American sourcing requirement under the GSA Schedule and Buy America Act.”

4 responses to “Solar industry declining worldwide with a massive supply glut

  1. The REAL demand is not for solar energy but for government largesse.

  2. tadchem: Check

    Also notice that as government largesse goes away, the price drops. Markets? That’s a stupid concept.


  3. Yes. but ONE day we are going to NEED the sun (or something similar – rare earth perhaps?). That is – when there is a buck to be made – without subsidies.

  4. The economics of price deflation lead to further demand drops, as consumers will feel (correctly) that “waiting” will lead to EVEN LOWER prices.

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