PV manufacturing equipment rises to $2.9 billion in Q4 10

Quarterly Photovoltaic manufacturing equipment spending by c-Si ingot-to-module and thin-film panel producers grew for the sixth consecutive time during the final quarter of last year, reaching $2.9 billion as production capacity growth was seen across the PV industry.

The report from Solarbuzz also shows how the rise in equipment demand from Asian cell manufacturers will boost global industry revenues throughout 2011, with forecasts of growth from $10.7 billion for 2010 in total to $11.7 billion this year.

According to Solarbuzz, the vertical integration aspirations of tier one Chinese c-Si producers and strong investment into existing and emerging thin-film technologies lead to a further 1.25 GW of quarterly production capacity coming online during Q4 10.

This meant that annualised c-Si cell and thin-film panel capacity added during 2010 grew to 11.5 GW in total.

“Equipment suppliers aligned with tier 1 customer expansions and their process technology trends are posting record quarterly revenues, while at the same time accumulating tool backlogs in excess of trailing twelve month (ttm) revenues,” said Finlay Colville, Senior Analyst at Solarbuzz.

It is noted that leading equipment suppliers Applied Materials, Centrotherm, GT Solar and Meyer Burger are now trending with ttm PV revenues that exceed $500m.  Meanwhile emerging process tool suppliers such as Amtech Systems, DEK-Solar, Despatch Industries and Jusung Engineering are projected to post year on year PV-specific revenue growth rates between 220 percent and 360 percent.

It is said that with strong capacity expansions in excess of 60 percent year on year also announced for 2011, bookings for preferred equipment suppliers are driving tool backlogs to levels that have not been seen since 2008, when it is said high-value turn-key thin-film business was a key contributor.

There are now 20 equipment suppliers which currently have order backlogs in excess of $100m, the majority of which are due to for shipment during the first half of 2011.

Figure 1: PV Equipment Backlog Technology Indicator


Source: Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly 

The Solarbuzz report noted that a geographic shift in PV manufacturing to China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia, with 85 percent of c-Si cell revenues and 60 percent of thin-film revenues during 2010 going to manufacturers in these regions.

Meanwhile revenues available for tool suppliers from European PV manufacturers continue to drop, with Centrotherm and Roth-&-Rau generating just 12 percent of PV revenues from European customers in 2010.  This marks a significant decline when compared to the 2008 level of 33 percent.

Applied Materials was said to be the leading equipment beneficiary with strong process tool supply to tier one cell manufacturers. It is thought that full year PV-specific revenue estimates of between $1.3 and $1.5 billion are more than $500m greater than any other PV equipment supplier for 2010.

Solarbuzz believes that total equipment spending for c-Si ingot-to-module and thin-film panels is set to grow to $11.7bn, though this is dependent on certain factors such as the phasing of expansions by thin film manufacturers and the possible knock-on effects of a potential c-Si module over-supply during the first half of 2011.

It is thought that Centrotherm has emerged as the equipment supplier to watch during 2011 after revenues in 2010 increased each quarter with over 75 percent coming from single process c-Si tools, heavily weighted towards end-users across Asia.

“Understanding that the total addressable market for PV equipment suppliers is comprised of different served market segments remains an essential part of equipment suppliers’ growth strategies,” adds Colville.