Solar photovoltaic cell manufacturers globally produced a record 10,700 MW in 2009—a respectably 51% increase from 2008. While growth in 2009 slowed from the 89% expansion in 2008, it continued the rapid rise of an industry that reached 1,000 MW of production in 2004. By the end of 2009, nearly 23,000 MW of PV were installed worldwide.
Two categories of PV include crystalline silicon and thin-film. Crystalline silicon cells account for more than 80% of the annual PV market. Thin-film PV, a relatively new technology, is less efficient but less expensive and hence, applicable in more locations than PV panels.
Arizona-based First Solar, which has most of its production capacity in Malaysia, was the top PV manufacturing firm in 2009. Despite the economic downturn, IMS Research predicts that more than 16,000 MW of PV are slated for 2010 installation.