PV market reaches $10bn manufacturing equipment revenues

The Photovoltaic manufacturing equipment revenues exceeded $10 billion in 2010 despite the book-to-bill ratio falling to a three month average of 1.16 in the third quarter (Q3), following an eight quarter high during Q2 2010.

The growth rates for the backlog of solar PV manufacturing equipment also dipped with a return to single digit percentage levels, mirroring the trends that were observed at the end of 2008 when there was another strong bout of PV tool ordering activity.

A senior analyst at Solarbuzz attributed the latest book-to-bill figures to PV manufacturing equipment suppliers ramping up deliveries – following the strong order backlog accumulated during the first half of 2010.  These figures were matched by record PV tool revenues reported by several leading PV suppliers during Q3 2010.

It is noted by Solarbuzz that book-to-bill ratios have historically been widely adopted by various technology sectors to assess their overall health, with a ratio of greater than one, or parity, being indicative of a strong market.  An unhealthy environment with softening equipment would in turn be signalled by a ratio that was below parity.

Solarbuzz analysis has shown that equipment revenues in total will exceed the $10 billion level during 2010, with a market leader, Applied Materials being the first equipment supplier to pass the $1 billion threshold for specific tools within a twelve month trended period.  It is reported that other tool suppliers will also announce large profits in excess of $500 million during 2010.

It is thought that c-Si cells will account for approximately 85-90 percent of PV production during 2010, though the breakdown of PV equipment revenues by technology shows a greater contribution from thin-film segments, which is believed to be a result of continued investment in emerging production types. 

It is believed that investment in thin-film fab during the second cycle is forecast to peak during the first half of next year, impacting on strong equipment revenues forecasts from fabs currently at the build out phase.