Sharp back on top of the solar mountain

Analysts Solarbuzz say the Japanese maker has returned to No.1 in shipments after five years, confirming the value of brand recognition within the PV industry.

NPD Solarbuzz

Sharp Solar returned to the top of the solar photovoltaic (PV) module shipment rankings during Q1’14, after a five year absence, according to findings in the latest NPD Solarbuzz Module Tracker Quarterly report.

Sharp was the solar PV industry market leader for 45 years between 1963 and 2008, before manufacturing capacity was scaled up in China. Between 2009 and 2014, First Solar and Chinese-based solar PV suppliers dominated the top rankings within the industry.

“The first quarter this year was the first time a non-Chinese module supplier has taken the leading position in the solar PV industry since the fourth quarter of 2009,” according to Ray Lian, senior analyst at NPD Solarbuzz.

“Sharp Solar benefited from seasonally strong end-market demand in Japan, and the ability to quickly increase shipment volumes through a flexible strategy of using outsourced supply from China and Taiwan.”

Figure 1: Sharp’s Solar shipment volume and rank

Graph for Sharp back on top of the solar mountain

Source: NPD Solarbuzz Module Tracker Quarterly

During its previous reign as the industry’s leading PV module supplier, Sharp pursued a vertically integrated strategy, manufacturing its own solar cells and modules. However, during the past few years, Sharp has shifted its emphasis to selling modules manufactured by outsourced partners located mainly in China and Taiwan.

“Sharp’s success in the first quarter of this year confirms the value of brand-recognition within the PV industry,” Lian said.

“It also shows the viability of the so-called ‘fab-lite’ model, in which either internal manufacturing capacity or outsourced supply can be managed effectively to address short-term opportunities.

"The fab-lite model is now used by several of the leading vertically-integrated companies in the PV industry.”

Originally published on NPD Solarbuzz. Reproduced with permission.