PV equipment suppliers post record backlogs in 4Q10

Quarterly PV manufacturing equipment spending by c-Si ingot-to-module and thin-film panel producers grew for the sixth consecutive quarter in 4Q10 to $2.9B, says Solarbuzz.

Quarterly PV manufacturing equipment spending by c-Si ingot-to-module and thin-film panel producers grew for the sixth consecutive quarter in 4Q10 to $2.9B, says Solarbuzz. The group sees rising equipment demand from Asian cell manufacturers will be the primary driver behind global industry revenues during 2011, forecast to grow ~9% to $11.7B.

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PV equipment backlog technology indicator. (Source: Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly)

A further 1.25GW of quarterly manufacturing capacity came online during 4Q10, bringing annualized c-Si cell and thin-film panel capacity added during 2010 to 11.5GW. With strong capacity expansions (>60%) also announced for 2011, bookings for preferred equipment suppliers are driving tool backlogs to levels that have not been seen since 2008-20 equipment suppliers now have >$100M order backlogs, most scheduled to ship during 1H11, noted Finlay Colville, senior analyst at Solarbuzz.

Tier 1 c-Si manufacturers remain committed to capacity expansion, placing high-volume orders on preferred process tool suppliers. CIGS and CdTe expansions provided strong bookings, often based on customized product offerings. Asian-based turnkey equipment suppliers continued to dominate a-Si/µc-Si bookings and shipments. But the big trend impacting equipment suppliers has been the geographic shift in PV manufacturing to China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia, regions which accounted for 85% of c-Si cell revenues and 60% of thin-film revenues in 2010. Conversely, revenues attributed from European PV manufacturers continue to decline.

Solarbuzz forecasts equipment spending for the c-Si ingot-to-module and thin-film panel segment to grow to $11.7B in 2011, but with some uncertainties in the precise phasing of thin-film expansions (except First Solar) and possible c-Si module oversupply during 1H11. Coville calls out two companies to watch in particular: AMAT, whose 2010 projected sales far outpaced others ($1.3B-$1.5B, $500M more than anyone else), and single process c-Si tool supplier Centrotherm, which saw sales increase each quarter and has heavy exposure to Asia end-users.- J.M.

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