New Hampshire, USA — After a punishing 2011 and expectations of a tough 2012, look for a surge of demand to upgrade solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing equipment over the next few years, says IMS Research.
PV equipment sales are expected to sink by more than half in 2012, likely below the $6 billion range. (Some see tightness extending even into 2013.) But IMS has another take on the data: a v-shaped recovery that returns equipment spending to nearly 20 percent growth in both 2013 and 2014 and almost 40 percent in 2015. But with overcapacity still smothering new investments in production expansion, and with utilization rates at all-time lows, for now solar PV manufacturers will focus on upgrading and replacing aging equipment — which IMS calculates as a $25 billion/20-gigawatt (GW) opportunity for equipment suppliers from now until 2016.
“There is between 2.5-4 GW of existing manufacturing capacity that requires upgrade in 2012, and this figure will steadily ramp-up over the coming few years,” writes IMS senior research director Tim Dawson. “Companies wishing to remain competitive and take the opportunity to gain market share, will be forced to invest in new equipment.” Those who do so with the least disruption will strengthen their market position, and the equipment suppliers who can show the clearest path to upgrades will be in position to take market share longer-term, he adds. (Note that the solar PV market’s continued shake-out means fewer cell/module makers, and that will take existing manufacturing capacity offline.)
Some remaining PV manufacturers might also see this as an opportunity to either to upgrade existing lines or bank some extra capacity for when they can ramp up again. But Dawson says the amount of such capacity snapped up on the cheap should be small, because that older equipment wouldn’t be capable of producing the more advanced solar cell and module technologies with higher efficiencies that manufacturers are busy implementing, and that customers expect.