The Solar Power Expert Blog

Is Competition Holding Solar Technology Back?

by GuestPoster - October 11th, 2012.
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More efficient models of solar panel are being held back from release by firms struggling to cope as price of existing stocks continue to plummet. P-type technologies are the most mainstream solar product being sold on the market, but competitive pricing and manufacturing has meant that the industry cannot afford to invest in research for new, more effective N-type technology.

Solar power has never been more popular. Last year saw a 40 per cent rise in global demand for solar products. The price of manufacturing the panels has dropped as demand has risen. 2011 saw a drop in the price of production by 50 per cent. The cheaper production costs and rising demand have created a surplus in manufacturing capacity. The situation has meant that leading solar companies like Suntech, Yingli, Trina and SunPower have been forced to slash their prices to sell in a crowded market that has been flooded by supplies. Some cheaper Chinese-based companies are even selling their solar products at a loss. Even though the products are technologically inferior to those being manufactured by other companies, they are desperate to clear out their inventory.

As more and more businesses saw the potential in the flourishing solar industry, large conglomerates formed in recent years, eager to enter the market. These financially stable conglomerates, along with industry experts, predict that the manufacturing pricing difficulties will last for at least a few more quarters before it eventually stabilises. They are confident that they will be able to survive the tough cash-strained environment, but smaller solar companies look to go out of business. Germany’s Q-Cells, once the world’s largest solar producer, filed for insolvency this year, and many US companies have also gone out of business. Unlike the large conglomerates, they do not have the financial backing to get through the period. It is expected that the crisis will cause a major restructuring of the solar industry.

Although manufacturers are suffering, the benefits are being reaped by the customer. Solar power products are enjoying high sales and solar has emerged as a viable competitor for fossil fuel, especially as the alternative energy source does not need to rely on subsidies to make sales. However, researchers are eager to modify solar technology even further, and make it more efficient and effective.

Researchers are confident that N-type solar products are the future of the industry. N-type solar products are a much better conductor than the current P-type standard that dominates the market. However, the recent losses incurred by big solar firms have meant that they are not eager to invest in the new technology at present. Many simply do not have the money or resources to invest in research and development, even if it would ultimately create a better and more effective product.

Although two major companies, Sunpower and Panasonic, are developing N-type products, it is anticipated that they would struggle to get a foothold in the competitive market if they were released. N-type is more expensive to manufacture and produce, and it would not be able to compete with the cheaper P-type products without slashing prices to match them. Firms would risk suffering from further losses if they were to spearhead the new technology.

The solar industry is set to change in the coming years. New, leading manufacturers are set to emerge as more and more businesses file for insolvency in the tough market environment. However, it is hoped that this change will also lead to more advanced N-type panels being developed and distributed. As the market is flooded with the older P-type technology, it is anticipated that in the coming years the market will rebound against the mainstream product and seek out a more efficient alternative. Research may be slow, however, until this happens.

Steve Waller writes on a wide range of issues connected to the world of green business. For more news on the renewable industries, as well as a host of tips on sustainable living, visit or connect with him through Google Plus.

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