Technical innovation to create new revenue opportunities for PV capital equipment supply chain

July 16, 2012 // By Paul Buckley
Market intelligence analyst, NPD Solarbuzz, is forecasting that a technology roadmap for the PV industry is set to emerge during 2013, bringing the PV industry into alignment with adjacent technology sectors where roadmaps typically have broad industry support.

The creation of the new PV technology roadmap will be a leading indicator for the new technology buying cycle, which will be driven collectively by top-tier c-Si manufacturers in China and Taiwan.

Until now, each tier 1 PV manufacturer has implemented a different technology roadmap. This lack of synergy has been a factor preventing cell efficiencies from reaching the 20% level. During 2011, only 15% of cells produced by tier 1 manufacturers were rated at 18% or higher. However, through collective efforts in implementing a new PV technology roadmap, 75% of tier 1 c-Si capacity will fall into this high-efficiency category by the end of 2015, according to the latest NPD Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly report.

Ray Lian, Analyst at NPD Solarbuzz, commented: “Previously, the PV industry was pursuing a wide range of manufacturing technologies across different c-Si and thin-film types. This created significant challenges for PV equipment suppliers, as they were unsure which customers would survive for repeat business. However, the current manufacturing shakeout is playing a pivotal role in filtering out uncompetitive technologies from the industry.”

The shakeout is likely to reduce the number of cell and thin-film manufacturers from almost 400 in 2011 to less than 100 by 2016, with the top 20 manufacturers contributing over 60% of cells produced for module shipments. Within the thin-film segment, only 13 manufacturers are projected to have production output exceeding 100 MW by 2016.

The shakeout along the value-chain will be accompanied by a re-ordering of preferred tool providers, as new capital equipment suppliers challenge existing PV equipment leaders. Unlike PV manufacturing, where consolidation or acquisition of insolvent competitors has limited value, the existing PV supply chain offers more strategic benefits for new equipment entrants. Deals such as those awaiting completion by Oerlikon Solar and Tokyo Electron, Ltd. are likely to become more frequent moving forward, as new capital equipment suppliers prepare for the next PV technology spending upturn.