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Value Chain Activity: Manufacturing Crystalline Modules

Module manufacturing involves putting together the cells onto glass or other substrate and connecting the cells to form an electric circuit. This is the last manufacturing step before it is distributed to wholesalers. Many module manufacturers also either manufacture their own range of inverters or offer electrical components as part of the package. As competition from thin-film becomes more fierce, product innovation will be key to success in future.

Industry Context

Low barriers to entry

Capital requirements and energy requirements for modules are much less than for the other processes.



For companies that are not integrated into cell manufacturing, Due to the



With a large number of module manufacturers, overcapacity and few distinguishing features, this industry is set for more consolidation.


There is a large number of module manufacturers. Many of the leading module manufacturers are also cell manufacturers. But there are many more.

Product Differentiation and Margins
The main differentiating factor is of course efficiency. In an industry that is (at least temporarily) suffering from low 56% utilization, technical differentation is the one aspect that can shelter margins. Another interesting feature is Evergreen which offers a module tolerance of +5% rather than the usual ±3%.

Vertical Integration
Most companies in this segment are forward integrated into turnkey solutions, wholesale or have partnerships with distributors.

PV Cell


The main alternative to crystalline cells is thin-film。 However, due to the very different manufacturing process, switching costs would be prohibitive。 To mitigate risk, many module makers also offer thin-film products。



Wholesale and distribution of modules is very fragmented with very few global players。

Module Cost Trends

Cost Trends

In module manufacturing, the drop in demand in 2009 has meant that the average margins have dropped from 14% to 11%。 The production costs excluding the costs for the cells are just $0。25 per Watt, which is significantly less than the production costs for wafers or cells。 In fact, 90% of the total cost of a module is due to the cells。 This is probably one reason why there are so many more module companies。

Margin Trends in crystalline module value chain

Margin Trends

We have plotted the average margins in the four production steps from 2nd quarter of 2008 to May 2009.

Whilst the average price for modules has fallen by 59%, costs in this short period have remained almost constant, thus reducing margins. However, not all segments were hit with equal force.

Worst hit was the wafer segment where average margins have dropped 71% in comparison to module producers whose average margins fell by only 19%。 This highlights just how much pressure the wafer segment is under, which will probably result in more vertical integration and consolidation。



This is a selected list of module manufacturers. It is not intended to be a complete list, though it captures a good cross-section of this segment of the value chain.

Name Country Comments
Significant manufacturers
Japan Pioneer in solar technology. Its new range of modules use special plasma coating to reduce reflection off the glass.
Taiwan One of the largest PV cell manufacturers. Multi-crystalline cells to 15%, mono-crystalline cells to 16.5%, also coloured multi-crystalline cells.
Germany HIT Technology: Thin c-Si with ultra-thin a-Si: Cell efficiency 19%, module efficiency 16.6%
Germany Products include polycrystalline modules (13.5%), thin-film (a-Si) and concentrated solar thermal plants. Does not sell its cells separately.
Japan Crystalline and thin-film (a-Si). Monocrystalline cells 17.5% (modules 14.2%), multicrystalline cells 14.4% (modules 13.7%)
Germany Production capacity 2008: 260MW, Plan for 2010: 700MW. Module efficiency 16% (multi) and 17% (mono). Won the "Highest yield module" Photon award 2008. SolarWorld does not sell its sells separately.
USA Its monocrystalline Solar Panel "315" acheives cell efficiency 22% and a module efficiency of 19.3%! 
China With in-house "Pluto Technology" achieve 18% mono-crystalline cell efficiency (14% in module). Plan to extend to thin-film. Does not sell its cells separately.
China Capacity of 350MW each in wafers and cells. Rapidly expanding globally. Monocrystalline cell 17%, module 16% efficiency. 
China 200MW for cells, 200MW modules. Plan to increase capacity to 600MW in 2009
Other Companies    
Germany 170MW capacity
Germany Produces own modules, also sells Trinasolar and others
Taiwan Part of AU Optronics Corporation, listed on NYSE (AUO). Has showcased a module with integrated micro-inverter allowing each module to operate in the maximum power point, thus avoiding shading effects common in urban areas. AUO's EcoDuo PM220P00 is the world's first PV module to have passed PAS2050 carbon footprint verification by SGS. Its SunForte PM318B00 has a conversion rate as high as 19.5%
Germany Produce both mono- and poly- crystalline modules. Also inverters and turnkey solutions.
China 1GW thin-film, 3GW crystalline capacity
Manufactures modules and sells mostly to residential customers. Sales 2008 of 162MW. Sales of this business segment is 1% of BP's total sales
China completed two solar demonstration projects with a combined system size of 29.5 kWp for China’s Suzhou Municipal City Hall
China Capacity 50MW
Germany Conergy has abandoned bioenergy and solar thermal to just focus on photovoltaics in attempt to turn around operations. Fully integrated from modules to projects.
China 50MW cells, 200MW modules
Germany Thin-film tech is a-Si. The only wafer manufacturer in Germany, producing exlusively for solar market
South Korea CPV modules with cells from Emcore (high concentration). Also crystalline pv
China Sells modules and trackers
USA Utilse the low-cost Ribbon technology for silicon wafers. Module efficiency 13.4%. Power tolerance is +5% (not plus/minus 5%)
Taiwan CPV Manufacturer
USA In renewables: more active in wind than solar.
China crystalline Silicon cells / modules
Taiwan Silicon wafers and a-Si modules. No c-Si cells!
China 200MW by 2009 capacity
India 25MW c-Si; 10MW a-Si
South Korea relative newcomer in modules
Spain Produces mono-crystalline cells (to 17.2%) and modules to 13.8%. Now developing a high-concentration pv module (1000x). Also manufactures solar thermal collectors. 
Germany Part of the Jinglong Industries Group
South Korea
South Korea 100MW capacity
China Module capacity 80MW
Japan High efficiency crystalline Si 18.6%
Plan to increase capacity to 500MW by 2012
India Current capacity ~ 200MW
Germany Monocrystalline modules to 18% from own cell production line, but cells are not sold separately.
France Produce some of the thinnest cells on the market, both mono- and multicrystalline to 17%
Austria polycrystalline Si Modules
Norway 2008: Capacity: 225MW for cells, 150MW for modules. Plan: 780MW for cells, 740MW for modules. Silicon produciton in USA
South Korea Ex Samsung. Current capacity 100MW, to 150MW by end of 2009.
China crystalline Silicon cells / modules
Spain With Siliken Chemicals, Electronics and Modules produce poly-Si, modules, inverters. Module production 92MW
Greece Capacity 60MW total
India Also offer modules for bipv
UK In development of new module technology
Germany Adds another 150MW in 2009
Germany Capacity 500MW, also offer tracking systems. Crystalline modules 14.6%. No thin-film tech.
Sovello Germany Produce wafers using Ribbon technology. Capacity: 100MW (2008), 180MW (2009).  Cell efficiency 15%, modules 13.4%
Germany Produces mono- and multicrystalline cells to 17.3%, as well as transparent, coloured crystallines cells (13.9%). 
China German branch in Frankfurt/Main
Japan Module capacity 60MW
China Capacity 50MW now, 100MW in 2009
Spain Also manufacturer of wind turbines. In CPV both low (2.25x) and medium concentration (120x)


Downloads: Download北京28预测 comprehensive list of ingot & wafer producers including financial ratios, revenues and other information.

ReferencesAll company information has been obtained from company websites, Reuters and Factiva database. For comparison, currency amounts have been converted using exchange rates as of 20/06/09.

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