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22 September 2010

Solar Cell Production Climbs to Another Record in 2009

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"Solar photovoltaic (PV) cell manufacturers produced a record 10,700 megawatts of PV cells globally in 2009—an impressive 51-percent increase from the year before," says J. Matthew Roney, Staff Researcher of the Earth Policy Institute, in a recent release, "Solar Cell Production Climbs to Another Record in 2009."
"While growth in 2009 slowed from the remarkable 89-percent expansion in 2008, it continued the rapid rise of an industry that first reached 1,000 megawatts of production in 2004. By the end of 2009, nearly 23,000 megawatts of PV had been installed worldwide, enough to power 4.6 million U.S. homes. Solar PV, the world’s fastest-growing power technology, now generates electricity in more than 100 countries."

Made of semiconductor materials, PV cells convert solar radiation directly into electricity. Rectangular panels consisting of numerous PV cells can be linked into arrays of various sizes and power output capabilities—from rooftop systems of one to several kilowatts to ground-mounted arrays of hundreds or even thousands of megawatts. (One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts.)

There are two broad categories of PV: crystalline silicon and thin-film. Crystalline silicon cells account for more than 80 percent of the annual PV market. But thin-film PV, a relatively new technology that is less efficient but also less expensive to make and potentially adaptable to more applications, is gaining ground. In fact, First Solar, a thin-film company headquartered in Arizona but with most of its production capacity in Malaysia, was the top PV manufacturing firm in 2009, contributing roughly 10 percent of world PV production.

China produced 3,800 megawatts of PV in 2009, leading all countries for the second straight year. Together China and third place Taiwan accounted for 49 percent of all PV manufacturing, a share that should keep climbing as companies there grow larger and more quickly than competitors based in countries where operating costs are higher. Rounding out the top five producers in 2009 were Japan in second place, Germany in fourth, and the United States in fifth. (See data.) These traditional industry leaders have lost significant market share with the recent ascent of China and Taiwan. Indeed, Japan, which dominated the global market in 2004, controls just 14 percent today.

(ENN - Environmental News Network)

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