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PV Panel Makers You Should Know

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Dubai Solar Park First was contracted to build the 13MW plant
Dubai Solar Park First was contracted to build the 13MW plant

The global solar photovoltaic (PV) industry bounced back in 2013 with 38.4 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity installed worldwide compared to around 30GW in each of the previous two years.

At the end of 2009, the world’s cumulative installed PV capacity was more than 23 GW but that figure has multiplied more than six-fold in the past five years. By the close of 2013, almost 138.9 GW of PV had been installed globally.

The solar potential of the Middle East remains largely untapped but there have been signs of progress over the past couple of years. The big question is when Saudi Arabia will embrace the technology but smaller markets are ploughing ahead. Jordan is leads the way with 200MW of PV under construction and the likelihood of a further 400MW to come in the next few years.

In the UAE, Dubai is on the verge of awarding the contract for the 100MW expansion of its Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park and has taken the first tentative steps towards greenlighting rooftop solar. And Abu Dhabi has already awarded a number of licences for rooftop PV at test sites across the Emirate.

Utilities Middle East takes a look at five of the many PV module manufacturers that developers will be able to choose from once solar begins to be rolled out across the Middle East.

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1. Yingli Solar
Not many panel makers can claim to have any notoriety outside of solar industry circles, but Yingli Solar has managed to achieve that thanks to its sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer. The US-listed company’s name was beamed into billions of households across the globe during games and its panels even adorned some of the stadiums.

In fact Yingli has clearly decided that football, the world’s most popular sport, is the best way to publicise its brand. It is also a major sponsor of German giants Bayern Munich and US Soccer. As if that isn’t enough the company was the largest PV panel manufacturer worldwide in 2013 with 13 million units sold.

Yingli won a small order in Jordan in 2013 but this year has made a push into the Middle East in anticipation of huge investments in the region in the coming years.

Evangelos Lianos, executive director Middle East, Yingli Solar told UME earlier this year. “I am certain that the Middle East and Africa is emerging as THE hub for solar power.”

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2. First Solar
First Solar is arguably the most well established name in the nascent Middle East solar sector. More than just a panel maker, the US-based company was contracted to build and operate the 13MW initial phase of Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park. As such it is seen by many as the frontrunner for the contract to build the 100MW expansion of the plant, which is expected to be awarded early next year.

It’s footprint in the region extends to Jordan, currently the most exciting market in the Middle East, where it will build and operate the 52.5MW Shams project, the largest photovoltaic plant in this part of the world.

First Solar was the sixth largest supplier of PV panels worldwide last year selling around seven million units.
It is also one of the leading suppliers of modules using thin film PV technology and broke its own efficiency record earlier this, hitting a certified rate of 21%.

That has since been surpassed, First Solar plans to reclaim the thin film cell efficiency record by hitting at least 22% next year.

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3. Trina Solar
Chinese firm Trina Solar has just made its debut in the Middle East market with a contract for the design, build, operation and maintenance of the 10 MW Shamsuna Solar Project in Jordan. Construction of the project is scheduled to begin this month with completion and grid connection expected in the second quarter of 2015.

Located southeast of Aqaba, the project will utilise 40,320 of Trina Solar’s 250Wp TSM- PC05A modules, and will be the largest solar farm in the areas. The project will generate over 19 GWh of power annually helping to meet the growing demand for electricity in Jordan and reducing carbon emissions by approximately 11,500 tons per year.

Trina hopes that the contract will provide the breakthrough in the Middle East and lay the groundwork for more contracts to come.

“We look forward to playing a meaningful role in Jordan’s efforts to develop its solar sector and to leveraging Trina Solar’s proven track record and technological expertise to rapidly penetrate the broader Middle East market,” said Qi Lin, president of PV Systems Business Unit of Trina Solar.

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4. Canadian Solar
Ontario-based Canadian Solar sits third in the list of top solar panel makers, behind Trina Solar, with eight million units sold last year.

Just last month the Nasdaq listed company bagged an order to supply 1.5MW of PV modules to Kawar Energy which is building the largest rooftop project in Jordan. Kawar will use the its high efficiency 72 cell CS6X300P modules, with power output of 300Wp, at a university in Amman, Jordan’s capital.

“We made the decision to work with Canadian Solar on the largest solar power rooftop project in Jordan as we trust the quality and performance of its solar modules, as well as its track record of success delivering modules to large scale solar power projects worldwide,” said Hanna Zaghloul, CEO of Kawar Energy.

Last year Canadian Solar agreed to supply Saudi Aramco with 1.78MW of units for the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center.

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5. Manz AG
Manz AG does not appear on the list of the world’s top PV panel manufacturers, but its exclusive partnership with the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Wuerttemberg (ZSW), puts the German firm in the frame.

ZSW recently hit a new record for thin film efficiency with a rate of 21.7%, breaking the record set by First Solar earlier this year, though it uses copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) technology as opposed to the cadmium telluride (CdTe) preferred by the US company.

“CIGS technology is currently the superior solar technology in every respect,” claimed a triumphant Dieter Manz, CEO and founder of the company. “Whoever wishes to invest in photovoltaics today and make money doing so cannot pass up on CIGS technology.

“Particularly in large markets with regulations regarding local value creation like China, India or the Middle East, CIGS technology can make the most of its unique advantages,” he added.

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