PV tool sales down 45% in ’09, doubling by 2013

PV manufacturing equipment revenues have taken a hit like everything else in the wake of the global financial crisis, slumping a projected -45% in 2009 to about €1.5B, notes Yole Développement. But the next four years should each mark significant growth, and push sales above €3B by 2013.

October 1, 2009 – PV manufacturing equipment revenues have taken a hit like everything else in the wake of the global financial crisis, slumping a projected -45% in 2009 to about €1.5B, notes Yole Développement. But the next four years should each mark significant growth, and push sales above €3B by 2013.

The credit crunch, lower-than-expected market growth, and a large product offer have in fact forced companies to be more innovative than ever,” Yole notes in its report. In response, companies all along the value chain, from poly-Si suppliers to module manufacturers, are working on improving the technology to push toward “grid parity.” Government incentives are also picking up, as is interest in a “smart grid” structure, to help make PV energy compelling (and thus investments in it).

“Worldwide investments in R&D as well as in cell production capacity have reached an unprecedented level,” Yole writes. Economies-of-scale will help cell manufacturers, but material and equipment innovations will be needed to help sustain growth, as will lessons learned from tangential industries including semiconductors, displays, and printing.

In the short term, the financial crisis — and a persistent overcapacity situation — will push sales down, notes Yole market analyst Gaetan Rull. But market demand will return in 2010, he predicts, causing fabs to hike utilization rates; this will usher in new fab investments and tooling, seen around 2011 given some lag time to catch demand.

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PV equipment market, 2007-2013. (Source: Yole Développement)


Other notable market moves Rull is tracking:

Investments in polysilicon manufacturing capacity. Incumbents including Hemlock, Wacker, and REC are doubling and even tripling their production capacity, while still keeping production costs low. New players (using “Siemens-type equipment”) are coming into the market, lured by silicon shortages and high prepayments: DC Chemical, LDK, GCL Poly Energy, etc. And low-cost technologies are worth noting, such as fluidized bed reactors (AE Polysilicon, MEMC, Peaksun) and upgraded metallurgical-grade (UMG) silicon (Becancour, 6N Silicon, Dow Corning, etc.).

Thin-film steps up. Thanks to “revolutionary cell designs and new production concepts,” Nanosolar and Solyndra are at the forefront of companies improving performance while decreasing cost/Watt, and positioning themselves to challenge First Solar, Rull writes. Also, “a large run after thin-film equipment,” paired with lower demand and decreased silicon prices, have made “a real impact” on thin-film sales.

Partnering up. The entrance of Applied Materials, Oerlikon Solar, Ulvac, and other OEMs have created various trends and alliances, the report notes.

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