Why is Suntech Power the World's Largest Producer of Crystalline Solar Panels?

Suntech Power Holdings Co. (NYSE: STP) is the world's largest manufacturer of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) modules, which convert light energy into electricity, and is China's largest U.S.-listed solar player by market capitalization.

Its competitive niche is in the middle of the PV supply chain. Based in China, the company has been rapidly expanding its production facilities and distribution channels in a highly competitive market, taking advantage of lower cost silicon availability and a high-demand Asian market. Globally, Suntech plans to sell 1,400 megawatts in 2010, compared with 704 megawatts in 2009.

The company has delivered more than 10 million solar panels in more than 80 countries around the world and has representative offices in every major solar market.

Products Offered

Suntech Power produces both monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon panels, and market these into four major markets: residential, commercial, agricultural, and utility-scale.

According to the company, their modules have the following advantages:

High Module Efficiencies: Roofs often have limited space for solar modules. The higher each module’s efficiency, the better the efficiency of the entire system. Our solar modules have above-average efficiencies of up to 15.7%.

Long-Term Output Stability: The usual initial loss of power in standard, Boron-based cell technology is 3 – 5%. Their monocrystalline solar modules are equipped with Gallium-doped solar cells, offering maximum initial stability (loss of power / LID < 1%) and high reliability during the module's operating life.

Enhanced Low Light Performance: Module output under laboratory conditions usually does not reflect actual output in real-world installations. In the field, performance under low light conditions has a strong impact on energy yield. Our novel cell design and improved solar glass ensure that Suntech solar modules perform well under real world, low light conditions.

Power Optimzed Current Sorting: The company sorts and packages modules with matching current characteristics to ensure each module string can achieve maximum power output. Current-matched modules install quickly, minimize lost power due to module mismatch, and maximize lifetime energy output.

Reasons For Success

The following are some of the reasons to consider using Suntech crystalline solar panels:

1) Substantial financial assistance from the government of China. Specifcially, in July 2010, China committed to provide Suntech Power with as much as 50 billion yuan (approximately $7.4 billion) which would be provided by the state-run China Development Bank Corp. – more than enough to double their production capacity.

2) Competitive pricing as a result of economies of scale and falling prices for silicon.

3) An industry leading warranty whereby Suntech warrants 6.7% more power than industry standard with our 25-year, transferable power output warranty.

The following product features of the Suntech solar panels contribute to this improved performance over time:

• Proprietary Gallium-F22 doping process dramatically reduces initial light-induced degradation to <1%, thus delivering better power and performance over time.

• Anti-reflective, hydrophobic coating improves light absorption and reduces surface dust.

The result is that Suntech solar panels can provide a high ratio of kWh produced over the life of the solar installation divided by the cost of your solar installation

Some Notable Installations

** Alamosa Power Plant (Colorado, USA).

** Arizona State University (Arizona, USA).

** Beijing National Stadium (Beijing, China).

** Elecnor Power Plant (Trujillo, Spain).

** Masdar City Solar Farm (Abu Dhabi, UAE).

** Nellis Air Force Base (Nevada, USA).

** Expo 2010 Shanghai (Shanghai, China).


The Company has representative offices in China, Australia, the United States, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, and Dubai, as well as production facilities in Wuxi, Luoyang, Qinghai, Shanghai, Germany, and Japan, with another under construction in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Company's American office is based in San Francisco, California, and has plans to start a production facility in Phoenix, Arizona in 2010 (partially to get around the US decision to limit the import of foreign made solar panels).

The Company also has executives of their US operations in top posts in American solar panel industry groups.

Not Everything is Perfect

In August 2010 the Company announced plans to overhaul operations at its Shanghai, China, manufacturing facility to focus on the manufacture of crystalline silicon solar cells. As part of the restructuring, the company has ceased the manufacture of amorphous silicon thin-film solar panels.

The Company expects to incur a thin-film equipment non-cash impairment charge of approximately $50 million to $55 million in the second quarter of this year. The company cites "rapid cost reduction and improving competitiveness of crystalline silicon solar panels" as the reasons for its decision to switch manufacturing focus at the Shanghai factory.

Note: This is at a time when several other firms like Unisolar and Sanyo and Oerlikon.

Additional Articles:

1) China Leads US in Domestic Clean Energy Investment: to read the full article click here.

2) The Company Opens an Office in France (one of their top 3 markets in Europe) to read the full article click here.

3) The company stops Producing Thin Film Panels (amorphous silicon) to read the full article click here.

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