PV module shipments see record surge in the Fourth Quarter of 2012

January 15, 2013 // By Paul Buckley
A new PV module shipment record of 11 GW was reached in the fourth quarter according to the IHS Solar Integrated Market Tracker from information and analytics provider IHS.

The record follows a disastrous third quarter of 2012 featuring low factory utilization rates across the entire photovoltaic (PV) supply chain

IHS says that despite this positive sign the situation of the global PV industry remains critical and a substantial recovery of the supply-demand balance is not expected to occur before the second half of 2013.

 The third quarter of 2012 dealt another blow to the global photovoltaic industry. After a relatively strong second quarter resulting in global installations of 7.8 GW, markets softened again.

“Installations in the third quarter amounted to just 7.5 GW. Wholesalers, EPCs, and PV suppliers were forced to carefully control their inventory levels due to falling prices and low shipment levels and production cuts were the consequence,” commented Principal Analyst Stefan de Haan.

In the third quarter of 2012, average module capacity utilization fell to 49 percent, cell capacity utilization to 56 percent, wafer capacity utilization to a record-low 55 percent, and polysilicon capacity utilization to 63 percent. In parallel, prices continued their slide in the third quarter of 2012 resulting in module industry revenues of only $6.0 billion - the lowest value since the second quarter of 2009. These difficult conditions were reflected in an increasing number of suppliers exiting the market.

 “In the fourth quarter of 2012 global PV markets rebounded sharply. Very strong demand from Asia, with the surge driven largely by China and Japan, helped to compensate for sluggish demand in Europe. IHS estimates that global PV installations were 10.1 GW in the fourth quarter of 2012. In particular leading Chinese module suppliers benefited from the uptick in demand and shipped much more than previously expected,” explained de Haan.

In total, 11.0 GW of global module shipments are estimated for the fourth quarter of 2012 - a new record for the industry. As anticipated by IHS, average market pricing for crystalline modules declined to $0.65 per watt at the end of