China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. is one of the world’s leading solar energy companies, as measured by volume of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) modules produced. The company designs, develops, manufactures, and markets premium-quality, high-output, cost-effective and environmentally friendly solar products for electric power applications in the residential, commercial, industrial, and public utility sectors. Suntech has grown quickly over the last five years: from $85 million in revenue in 2004 to $1.9 billion in revenue in 2008. It is an acknowledged technology leader and industry cost leader. Still, the financial crisis hit the entire solar industry hard: in an industry characterized by large, up-front capital expenditures and heavy working capital needs, the lack of global liquidity has meant that many firms had to put expansion plans on hold.
With IFC’s help, Suntech has been able to move forward, with aggressive plans to launch a new line of highly efficient solar modules, making use of its leading edge, proprietary crystalline silicon technology. Dubbed “Pluto,” the technology increases average cell efficiency by 12.5 percent and reduces production costs. Ultimately, this will help make solar energy a more cost-competitive power alternative— part of IFC’s overall strategy to help solar industry players achieve “grid parity,” the point at which the cost of electricity from solar PV will be on par with conventional sources of power without subsidies