Japan’s major photovoltaic (PV) suppliers have slipped in ranking, being overtaken by other regions like the US, China and Taiwan.

Japanese suppliers of solar photovoltaic cells and panels have dominated the industry for many years, but now, according to a new report from IC Insights entitled Solar Energy: Growth Opportunities for the Semiconductor Industry, the country slipped in the supplier rankings for 2008, giving way to other regions.

The 2008 top 10 solar ranking contains two suppliers based in Japan, three in China, two in Taiwan, two in Germany, and one in the US.

Japan’s Sharp Corp. was the number one PV device supplier in 2006 and for several years before that. In 2007, Germany's Q-Cells AG and China's Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd. overtook the company.

In 2008, First Solar Inc., a US-based supplier of thin-film PV panels made with cadmium telluride, blew past Sharp, pushing it down to number four in the 2008 rankings, which are based on the peak-megawatt value of the PV devices produced and sold by each supplier.

US company First Solar's MW TF panel sales increased by 144% in 2008, boosting it to the number two position.

Sharp has stated extremely ambitious plans for expansion of its capacity to manufacture and sell silicon-based TF panels over the near term; if successful, it could quickly make up for lost ground.

Sharp was not the only Japanese supplier whose position declined in the 2008 ranking. Kyocera Corp. slipped from the number five spot in 2007 to number six in 2008. Sanyo, which was number seven in the 2007 ranking, did not make IC Insights' top 10 ranking in 2008, and Mitsubishi also dropped in the ranking.