Trina starts production in Thailand as PV majors pile on capacity

Global PV module market-leader Trina Solar has started operations at a major new factory in Thailand, helping to fuel a boom in capacity that the company itself has said could leave the global industry oversupplied.

The manufacturing plant in Rayong opens with the ability to produce 500MW annually, which Trina said could be expanded to 600MW “depending on overseas market demand”. The plant can also produce 700MW of cells.

Trina – the world’s biggest producer by volume of modules in 2015 with 5.7GW shipped – secured $143m of finance for the new plant with $100m of loans from SCB and China Minsheng Banking Corporation.

The company – which also tied up a further $43m from SCB for working capital – expects the first deliveries to leave for the company’s non-Chinese customers by the end of this month.

The Thai plant is among the biggest examples yet of the determination of China’s solar giants to expand production capacity outside their home country, to ensure they can serve customers in key markets such as the US unhindered by fair-trade measures.

Trina – which expects to ship up to 6.5GW in 2016 – said of the new plant: “The investment in Thailand fits our strategy of prudent capacity expansion in select overseas markets to deliver industry leading products to customers in the US and Europe in particular as we strive to increase the profitability of the company." 

The company recently announced it will start producing cells in Europe after acquiring a plant in the Netherlands.

The expansion of capacity by PV manufacturers both inside and outside China comes with a risk of oversupply, and consequent pressure on margins, as early as the second half of this year, Trina admitted in March.

But the company has decided the risk is worth taking as it moves to ensure capacity for the long term, and to retain its market-leading position against rivals such as Canadian Solar and JA Solar.