Flextronics joins PV big guns

Flextronics cashed in on the growing trend among some major PV module makers to employ contract manufacturers, becoming the world's seventh-largest module producer last year – even though it sells no own-brand products, says research group IHS.

Japan's Sharp, which was the world's sixth-largest module supplier last year – shipping 1.05GW, according to IHS – falls off the top 10 list altogether when it comes to actual production, potentially reflecting its reliance on contract-manufacturing.

China’s Yingli Green Energy made 1.95GW of modules in 2012, claiming the world’s number-one spot in production.

But it was Yingli’s Chinese rival JA Solar, along with Singapore-based Flextronics, that recorded the most impressive growth.

PV panel production almost doubled at JA Solar in 2012 to 950MW, propelling it to sixth in the list from the 14th spot it held in 2011.

Flextronics ramped up module output by more than 60% in 2012, as it churned out 900MW of panels and shot up from 13th place in 2011.

Shanghai-based JA Solar has been transforming itself from a cell specialist into a module maker. Flextronics initially made its name as a contract manufacturer of electronics goods.

“Flextronics seems to be transitioning its business model to put more of a focus on renewable energy,” says Jon-Frederick Campos, an analyst at IHS Solar.

Last year many module makers concentrated on running down their inventories and slashed production. IHS says global output rose just 8% to 31.6GW – well down on previous increases of 31% in 2011 and 104% in 2010.

Top 10 Module Makers in 2012 by production.

Yingli 1950MW

First Solar 1,900MW

Trina Solar 1,700MW

Suntech 1,500MW

Canadian Solar 1,500MW

JA Solar 950MW

Flextronics 900MW

Jinko Solar 900MW

SunPower 850MW

Hanwha SolarOne 850MW

Source: IHS Solar, April 2013