Are all solar panels made in China?

Fast read

China is now the largest solar panel producer, producing about 75% of solar panels worldwide.

Not only has the quantity of solar panels increased, but the quality of the panels also drastically increased. As a result, China is currently a primary driver of global decarbonisation efforts, even though there have previously been some worries regarding the quality of Chinese solar panels.

However, there have been worries about how China's market domination could affect monopolies and issues with intellectual property.

Is China dominating the solar panel industry?

Solar panels available for sale in Australia and New Zealand come from various manufacturing sources, not solely from China.

However, over the last 10 to 15 years, China has emerged as the top manufacturer of solar panels and the dominant player in producing the key components for solar panel manufacturing.

Based on figures released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2021, almost 75% of global solar panels were manufactured in China.

An additional 15.4% of solar panels were manufactured in the Asia Pacific region, including South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Approximately 2.8% of modules were manufactured in Europe, 2.4% in North America, and 4.4% in India and the rest of the world.

If we look at raw silicon wafers used to make solar cells, China has an even firmer grip on the silicon wafer market, manufacturing almost 97% of the silicon wafers globally.

solar panel manufacturing
China’s use of advanced technology in the solar manufacturing process gives them an edge

Renewable dominance in China’s plan for the future

From the late 2000s to the early 2010s, China had a focused economic strategy to develop solar technology and manufacturing as a key technology growth opportunity.

Since then, many initially leading panel manufacturers globally, including Conergy, SolarWorld and Bosch from Germany, Solaria from the USA, LG from South Korea, Sharp, and Kyocera of Japan – could not compete with the Chinese expansion and low prices. As a result, they were pushed to lower volumes or even bankruptcy.

Several countries, such as the US, Germany, and other European Union nations, imposed tariffs and restrictions on importing Chinese solar panels. This happened because some companies were selling products for less than they cost to make, which is called dumping.

This has seen some European and US manufacturers continue operating in a protected market. Many large Chinese solar companies have found ways to bypass market restrictions. They do this by constructing factories in other South East Asian countries. This allows them to avoid the restrictions and continue operating.

Becoming a leader

China is a major player in the solar energy industry, utilising over half of the world’s solar modules. Many of these solar PV module companies enter constructing truly enormous solar power facilities, such as massive solar farms. Companies worldwide, including in Australia, often get their solar panels and inverters from China. Over the past ten years, China has become a major source, replacing European and US suppliers.

Chinese-made solar products have gotten better in quality, and now even European or US companies use them. They might sell these products under their own well-known brands. In the solar industry today, it’s common for companies to be based in one country but make their solar stuff in another.

Why is China’s solar panel dominance an issue?

The world needs more renewables, and China has heavily invested in solar. This gamble has pushed panel, inverter, and racking prices down for over a decade and made solar accessible for the masses. Therefore, while China, on the one hand, is still building more coal-fired power stations than many other countries, it has, on the other, been a significant driver of the de-carbonisation efforts for the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, there have been some concerns with the supply of solar panels from China.

Quality of the product

There has been a common perception that the quality of panel and inverter products manufactured in China is lower than those manufactured in more developed countries such as the USA, Europe, Japan and South Korea.

This held true a few years ago, but now it appears that product quality has improved, as the widespread failure of Chinese solar panels, once common 5 to 10 years ago, has become rare.

An indicator from the IEA study on R&D in the solar industry by country shows that China is responsible for approx. 25% of global solar Research and development (R&D) expenditure while manufacturing a significantly higher global supply chain.

This would suggest that Chinese solar manufacturers are less focused on technological innovation and more focused on mass production.

solar panel manufacturing
With their focus on mass production, we have seen China take over the solar manufacturing industry

Humanitarian and political concerns in China

Some folks worry about buying things made in China because they’ve heard about human rights issues caused by the Chinese Government. Stories in the news talk about minority groups, like the Uyghurs in Western China, being forced into “re-education” places, which sometimes include forced labor camps. These concerns make people think twice before choosing products from China.

Being aware of these issues and making informed choices when shopping is essential. Understanding where products come from helps us support fair and ethical practices.

The concentration of supply channels

So, when it comes to solar panels makers, many are done in China. This makes some people worry because China has a lot of control in this area. This is a problem because it means there’s not much variety in where we get our solar panels from.

Having most of the solar panel making in one place, like China, could be risky. It might mean there’s not enough competition, and China could have too much power over the market. This could lead to problems such as one country controlling prices.

To make things better, it’s important to have different places making solar panels. This way, no single country has too much control, and it keeps things fair and competitive. This helps make sure we have a strong and reliable source of renewable energy for the future.

Fair is fair

But why should China not benefit from placing a large wager on renewable energy? China is now the world’s top solar panel maker, beating the US by 25. This is a significant victory after making substantial investments in renewable energy for years.

This FAQ is not saying all Chinese solar panels are bad; it’s just telling you where most PV panels are made.

For high-quality panels for your solar system, regardless of their production location, it is beneficial to research before making a significant investment. Some Chinese-made solar panels exhibit long-lasting quality, while others remain unreliable or “dead duck” solar panels from China.

You can start by learning the best solar panels for your home through detailed research. This should give you an idea about the main criteria to consider when judging solar panels. You can also read customer reviews about the specific brand of solar panels installed in their homes. Finally, get advice from a local installer whom you can trust, as they will give you honest advice on the best choice of the solar panel.

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