IEA Calls For More Solar Panel Supply Chain Diversity

Solar panel supply chain diversity

China has played a huge role in pushing down the price of solar panels. But heavy reliance on China for solar gear is problematic says the International Energy Agency (IEA).

I purchased my first solar panel back in 2008; a 100 watt module that cost $1,000. A decent quality 100 watt panel today costs around $150.

In 2008, a full 1kW grid connect system cost around $3,000, and that was after an $8,000 government rebate and RECs. Today, you can buy a good quality 6.6kW solar system for approximately $6,300 fully installed, after the (greatly reduced) solar rebate – 6.6 times the capacity for a little over double the price.

The plummeting cost of solar can be largely attributed to China, but Australia also played an important role.

Acknowledging industrial and innovation policies in China that ramped up solar panel production have resulted in PV providing the most affordable electricity generation technology in many parts of the world (including Australia), the International Energy Agency says this has also led to imbalances in solar PV supply chains.

In the first study of its kind by the IEA, the Agency says China’s share in all key manufacturing stages of solar panels is more than 80% currently. And for some elements such as polysilicon and wafer production, it will eclipse 95% in the years ahead.

“Accelerating clean energy transitions around the world will put further strain on these supply chains to meet growing demand, but this also offers opportunities for other countries and regions to help diversify production and make it more resilient,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.

The IEA Special Report on Solar PV Global Supply Chains looks at raw materials through to finished panels, and examines areas such as energy consumption, emissions, employment, production costs and a bunch of other aspects It also discusses how diversification can reduce supply chain vulnerabilities and offer economic and environmental opportunities.

But diversification isn’t going to be any easy task. The IEA says costs in China are 10% lower than in India, 20% lower than in the USA, and 35% lower than in Europe.

“.. in the absence of financial incentives and manufacturing support, the bankability of manufacturing projects outside of panel assembly remains limited outside of China and few countries in Southeast Asia.”

Solar Panel Production In Australia

The only solar panel manufacturer in Australia providing Clean Energy Council approved products currently is Tindo Solar.

There was another mob – MSquare  – but they recently got themselves into a spot of bother with the Clean Energy Council and Clean Energy Regulator. Another company, RTE Energy, last year declared its intention to manufacture solar panels at Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct near Toowoomba in Queensland. There’s been no news since that I’m aware of.

Back to Tindo – they make a pretty good product judging by Tindo solar panel reviews here on SolarQuotes. The company has scored an  average 4.8 stars out of 5 overall, and 5 stars over the last 12 months. But if you’re keen on buying panels “made in Australia”, you’ll be paying more for Tindo than some of the good quality Chinese panels.

While Tindo panels are manufactured in Australia, the company sources cells from outside our shores – it used to be South Korea, but I’m not sure if that’s still the case. It’s safe to assume some of the other bits ‘n bobs that go into a panel are also imported.

Tindo has been going gangbusters in recent years, and in May officially opened its new $5 million production line at the company’s new factory in Adelaide’s Mawson Lakes. If you’re keen to see how an Australian-made solar panel is produced, you can book a free tour of the Tindo factory.

Tindo is currently listed on SolarQuotes’ approved solar panel brands chart.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. George Kaplan says

    Not related to this article, but possibly of interest to SQ, the EU has just voted to declare natural gas and nuclear power to be green energy. Eco-activists are unhappy to see the EU protect reliable energy.

    • Geoff Miell says

      George Kaplan,
      Fossil gas use is a reliable path to transition the Earth System to +4 °C global mean warming by 2100, and thus civilisation collapse.

      Nuclear technologies are a reliable path for very slow deployments of new and horrendously expensive plants. For example:

      * UK’s Hinkley Point C-1 & -2 (2x 4,524 MWₜₕ / 1,630 MWₑ net), given planning permission to EDF Energy in Apr 2013 for an estimated original cost of £16 billion, now blown out to total costs estimated to be in the range of £25 to £26 billion, with the first unit now expected to be operational now in Jun 2027 (so far 14 years and 2 months after approval).

      * France’s Flamanville-3 (1x 4,300 MWₜₕ / 1,630 MWₑ net), construction began on 4 Dec 2007, EDF estimated the cost originally at €3.3 billion (in 2004), now blown out to an estimated £12.7bn, with the unit now expected to be loaded with fuel in the second quarter of 2023 (so far more than 15 years after construction began).

      * Finland’s Olkiluoto-3 (1x 4,300 MWₜₕ / 1,600 MWₑ net), ordered in Dec 2003 with an initial cost estimate of €3 billion, blown out to around €11 billion, first grid connection on 12 Mar 2022 (around 18 years 3 months after order given).

      China’s CGN holds a stake in the Hinkley Point C project, and also the proposed Bradwell B project (2x 1,100 MWₑ).

  2. Nuclear dose not have to be slow or expensive.
    The US have not built a nuclear plant in 40 years.
    China are building 150 over 10 years.
    Its the regulations that make it so slow and expensive.
    If the government decides it has to be done then it can be done.
    Having said that, I would not like to live close to a cheap Chinese power plant.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Nuclear dose not have to be slow or expensive.

      And yet all the evidence/data indicates they ALL are, consistently.

      The US have not built a nuclear plant in 40 years.

      James, evidence indicates you are dead wrong.
      * Vogtle-3 construction started 12 Mar 2013 (3,400 MWₜₕ / 1,117 MWₑ net capacity), latest projected grid connection late-Q1 in 2023;
      * Vogtle-4 construction started 19 Nov 2013 (3,400 MWₜₕ / 1,117 MWₑ net capacity), latest projected grid connection late-2023;
      * VC Summer-2 construction started 9 Mar 2013 (3,400 MWₜₕ / 1,117 MWₑ net capacity), now abandoned, never completed;
      * VC Summer-3 construction started 2 Nov 2013 (3,400 MWₜₕ / 1,117 MWₑ net capacity), now abandoned, never completed.

      China are building 150 over 10 years.

      Dead wrong – where did you get that idea from, James? Per WNA, as of Jul 2022, China has 54 operating reactors (52,150 MWₑ capacity), and 20 under construction (20,600 MWₑ capacity).

      Its the regulations that make it so slow and expensive.

      I’d suggest, take the safeguards away and rush the work and we likely have another catastrophe like Chernobyl (or worse).

      If the government decides it has to be done then it can be done.
      Having said that, I would not like to live close to a cheap Chinese power plant.

      If you wouldn’t want to live next to one (or more) of these rushed units, then why would you think it’s acceptable for others to do so?

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