IHS: First Solar to stay top EPC

First Solar is now on course to hang on to top spot in the global rankings of PV EPC contractors, according to analyst IHS, which had earlier predicted the US group was set to be toppled by a Chinese rival.

IHS' latest predicted rankings of the top solar EPC companies for 2014, based on installed capacity, are similar to last year's.

Arizona-based First Solar is forecast to retain its top slot, with China’s TBEA SunOasis in second place.

That forecast marks a reversal of the analysts’ expectations released in May, when it predicted TBEA SunOasis was on course to knock First Solar into second.

Rounding out the top five in the latest predicted rankings are SunEdison at number three; SunPower in fourth place; and GD Solar ranked fifth.

Out of the ten companies that IHS forecasts will take the top positions in this year’s ranking, six are based in China while four are in North America.

The ten largest EPC players are set to install a combined 8GW of capacity this year, equivalent to 20% of non-residential demand, said IHS.

“The largest EPC companies build their success on expanding domestic PV demand,” said Josefin Berg, senior analyst for solar demand at IHS.

“The main exception is SunEdison, which is set to install half of an estimated 950MW of PV capacity outside its home base in the US.”  

European system integrators Abengoa and Belectric are both predicted to fall out of the top ten in 2014 as their European domestic markets are in decline.

South Africa is forecast to grow fivefold this year, installing close to 600MW of PV capacity involving projects awarded in the first national tender rounds.

IHS estimates that around 70% of that capacity will be carried out by European companies – namely Spanish construction group ACS Cobra, Italian PV system integrator TerniEnergia, which is working with Italy’s Enel Green Power, and Siemens Energy.

“Opportunities in new markets such as South Africa are essential for EPC companies,” Berg notes. “This is because European PV demand will decline to 10GW in 2014, so South Africa and new markets represent growth opportunities for the industry.”

By contrast the developed but declining markets like Germany and Italy boast few champions among system integrators.

Berg says the pipeline of work in these markets for most integrators has dried up as a result of small system sizes combined with an oversupply of installers.