First Solar top 2012 solar EPC

First Solar was the world’s largest engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor in the solar-energy industry last year, the first time it has taken the title, according to IMS Research.

On the back of mega-projects in the US such as Agua Caliente and Topaz, the Arizona-based thin-film manufacturer installed more than 500MW of generating capacity last year – a more than 50% increase on 2011.

US peer SunEdison took the second slot, and four of the top 10 players were Chinese, underscoring the persistent challenges facing European companies, which have traditionally dominated the rankings.

In 2010, seven of the top 10 solar EPCs were European. Last year that number had fallen to four – comprising Germany’s Belectric, Juwi and Enerparc, and France’s EDF Energies Nouvelles.

In addition to the four Chinese players in the top 10 – led by China Power Investment Corporation – another eight made the top 30, many of them linked to state-owned utilities and industrial giants.

“These companies are likely to see continued gains as their domestic market continues to grow rapidly and the Chinese market remains largely impenetrable to foreign firms,” says Ash Sharma, senior director of solar research at IHS, which owns IMS.

For the first time an Indian player – Larsen & Toubro – also made the top 10, installing 200MW last year. Indian EPCs remain “in an excellent position” to continue capitalizing on the high growth rate of domestic ground-mount projects, Sharma says.

However, although a number of European companies edged downward on the list – pinched by slack demand for large arrays at home – they still account for the “vast majority” of sizeable solar EPCs worldwide, and continue to make headway in emerging markets.

Eleven of the top 30 solar EPCs last year were European, installing 2GW between them.

Overall, the solar EPC game remains “incredibly fragmented”, Sharma notes. Even First Solar accounted for just 2% of the total market last year, and the top 30 players combined for less than one-quarter – roughly the same proportion as last year.

The top 15 EPCs for PV in 2012, according to IMS:

  • First Solar (US)
  • SunEdison (US)
  • Belectric (Germany)
  • China Power Investment Corporation (China)
  • Juwi (Germany)
  • Enerparc (Germany)
  • EDF Energies Nouvelles (France)
  • TBEA Sun Oasis (China)
  • GD Solar (China)
  • Jiangsu Zhenfa New Energy (China)
  • L&T ECC Solar (India)
  • SunPower (US)
  • China Guangdong Nuclear Development (China)
  • Swinterton Renewable Energy (US)
  • Shanghai Solar Energy (China)