China ranks first by a distance on the list of the largest renewable energy producers. The country generates about 329GW annually. That’s a lot of power. As an established superpower in the solar industry, it makes sense that the top solar panel manufacturers in the world are from China. The country easily out-competes the UK and even the US and has invested billions of dollars in producing high-quality solar panels. If you want to buy a solar system, you’ll most likely buy a solar power system from Chinese solar panel brands. Let’s talk about the best solar panels in China and the top Chinese solar manufacturers.
An Overview of the Solar Industry in China
You may not fully appreciate China’s leadership in the global solar industry till you realize that roughly 80% of all solar panels and their raw materials come from the country. This means China is either the supplier or the home country for the businesses of many solar companies that are solar panel manufacturers. Interestingly, Chinese solar panels are cheaper than solar panels from other countries. This is a key reason why China still maintained a dominant market share despite the imposition of solar tariffs on Chinese solar brands, which lasted from 2018 to 2022.
You may wonder why China is this big in the global renewable energy market. Well, here are the reasons.
China was the biggest investor in solar energy. This began before other major countries even developed an interest. After several years of gargantuan investments in efficient solar panels production, mega-sized solar power station constructions, and hyper-large-scale solar farms, China became the world’s largest producer of solar power. Today, China is single-handedly responsible for a third of the global demand for the solar panel system.
Large Production Base With Low Cost
The second reason Chinese solar panel manufacturers dominate the market is their large production base and low manufacturing costs. Already, it’s been established that the best and cheapest solar panels are from China.
The third reason is that top brands in China have fully leveraged the massive government support and their position in the booming solar market to increase their scale of production and operation exponentially. Let’s go back to the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008, which crippled the American economy and severely impaired the ability of American solar panel manufacturers to compete favorably. Luckily, the government supported Chinese solar companies and was able to leapfrog their competition.
Today, some American brands are even sourcing raw materials (according to their quality standards) for panels in China. They manufacture these high-efficiency solar panels and market them via American brand names. This also meant that manufacturers of solar charge controllers needed to improve their efficiency to handle these new types of panels. Alternatively, a solar company originating from another country can establish its headquarters in China and its manufacturing plants in another.
What Are the Best Chinese Solar Companies?
China is the world’s number one producer of green energy and high-efficiency panels. As a country teeming with big talents in the industry, it can be difficult to know the companies that stand out since there are so many. However, we’ve been able to come up with a well-curated list of the best brands manufacturing solar energy systems in China.
JA Solar is a solar manufacturer based in the Yangpu district, Shanghai. The company is a foremost designer, developer, manufacturer, and marketer of PV modules and monocrystalline and polycrystalline cells. The company was established in 2005. Aside from the US (a major market for the company), the company also sells its products in Germany, Sweden, South Korea, Spain, etc.
JA Solar became an authority in the solar industry in 2009 after a significant subsidy from the Chinese government enabled the firm to grow its global market share. As of late 2022, JA Solar had shipped 128GW of green energy modules. The company is one of the top Chinese brands with a physical presence in the US, San Jose (California) precisely.
Jinko Solar, like JA Solar, is a green energy holding company based in Shanghai, China. The company started in 2006, and this was also when it started solar wafers. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange four years later. Its customer base includes utility companies, residential and commercial customers from several countries worldwide, including the US.
Just like JA Solar, Trina Solar, and Hanhwa Q CELLS Ltd, Jinko Solar is a member of an elite circle – the Silicon Super Module League. In 2021, US Customs began blocking imports from Jinko Solar into the country because of concerns about forced labor. Jinko Solar has a world-class manufacturing plant in Jacksonville, Florida.
Trina Solar is a major Chinese PV systems manufacturer and supplier of integrated photovoltaic services. The company’s headquartered is in Changzhou, Jiangsu. Aside from manufacturing efficient and affordable panels, the company is also engaged in research and development of O&M and EPC, as well as developing and marketing smart multi-energy complementary and microgrid systems. Recently, Trina Solar added cloud-based energy operations.
In 2018, this solar company launched the Energy IoT brand. Trina Solar played a key role in making renewable energy popular and creating a larger grid parity of PV power. The com a significant player in reducing the global carbon footprint with an accumulated shipment of over 110GW, of which 9.5GW is grid-connected. Trina Solar has a facility in Fremont, California.
LONGi Green Energy Technology Co. Ltd is a Chinese photovoltaics and solar cell manufacturer and a major developer of solar projects. The company is based in Xi’an, Shaanxi. It’s widely regarded as the world’s largest developer of monocrystalline wafers. LONGi Solar was established as Xi’an LONGi Silicon Materials Corporation. A large chunk of the most efficient panels come from this firm.
The company’s customer base includes renewable power plants, homeowners, and industrial outfits. LONGi is the seventh largest company in China’s Energy and Chemical Manufacturing Industry. It has the highest Altman-Z score among PV manufacturers in the world. As of 2022, LONGi was ranked 724th on the year’s edition of Forbes Global 2000. LONGi has announced that it will be establishing a 5GW-capacity factory in Ohio.
As the world’s 8th largest PV product provider, Yingli Solar is one of the sources of the best solar panels globally. The company was established in 1998 and is based in Baoding, China. It’sa global brand with offices in several countries, including Japan, South Korea, and the US. Its business operations include casting silicon ingots, manufacturing solar cells, and assembling solar panels. Since its inception, Yingli Solar has produced and exported over 85 million solar panels (an equivalent of 20GW) to more than 90 countries globally.
For over a decade, Yingli Solar has been an industry leader in the number of patent applications for solar products. Its US branch office is in Philadelphia. In 2014, Yingli Solar became the first company in the renewable energy industry to sponsor the world cup.
Chinese Solar Panels in the American Market
Contrary to popular opinion, not all solar products from a Chinese solar panel brand is more affordable than American-made solar power products. The American government has ensured that by imposing extra import duties and tariffs on Chinese solar power products to prevent the market from being taken over by Chinese panels like the solar inverter and solar energy storage. In 2012, the American government approved countervailing and anti-dumping duties on solar cells from China.
Even at that, those who want to purchase solar panels or other solar products find that Chinese-made solar modules and solar wafers still have competitive products. In response, Chinese manufacturers changed the location of their production activities to avoid paying for those duties. In 2018, Trump’s administration imposed 30% of solar tariffs on all solar imports. These tariffs stepped down over the course of 4 years. In 2022, the Biden administration extended these solar tariffs for extra four years.
Later on, the US Department of Commerce launched a fresh AC/CVD investigation that would have resulted in the imposition of solar tariffs on multiple countries that China has been using for manufacturing bases of its solar products. This prompted several solar companies to stop exporting their solar panels to the US. This move triggered President Biden to respond by ruling out solar tariffs for these countries for two years. Once this period is over, the US will subject solar imports from these particular countries to new tariffs.
The Current State
Presently, the tariff saga has resulted in selling their PV modules and PV systems at prices that are much closer to that at which American manufacturers of high-quality panels sell theirs in the American market. Also, Chinese solar brands are now establishing factories in the US. In 2018, for instance, Jinko Solar announced that they would be building a solar factory capable of manufacturing 400 MW of photovoltaic module capacity in Florida. This was shortly after tariffs were levied on solar imports.
In the first quarter, LONGi Solar followed suit by announcing that it would be building a 5GW-capacity manufacturing plant in Ohio. These projects are brilliant moves that will keep Chinese brands in the American solar market for a long time.
Does It Really Matter Where Solar Panels Come from?
No, it doesn’t. There’s a popular belief that American-made products are better than Chinese-made products. A belief that even influences people’s perception of solar products. The fact is that Chinese solar panels and solar cells are available in different tiers of quality. The tier 1 panels are of the highest quality and are just as good as American-made panels, if not better.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter where the solar panels originate because every solar panel-producing country has good-quality solar panels. If you’re concerned about getting the best-quality panels for solar installation and reducing your electricity bills, you don’t need to look into every solar company in China for that. Simply reading reviews from reputable sources or dealing with the top dogs in the solar industry will ensure that you’re getting the best value for your money. Alternatively, you don’t have to do that because you already have a carefully compiled list of the best Chinese solar brands.