Solar PV markets and industry have quickly grown to global scale, and industry players on the whole will benefit greatly by taking a cue from their high-tech industry counterparts, according to a new report from NPD Solarbuzz.
It’s now routine in the high-tech sector for competing companies, as well as participants from across the value and supply chains, to join in setting and achieving common goals set out in technology roadmaps — performance, equipment, and other technology standards, in particular. A technology roadmap for the solar PV industry is set to emerge in 2013, NPD Solarbuzz says.
“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,” according to the Santa Clara, California-based market research company.
Further Consolidation, Greater Industry Collaboration
Tier 1 PV manufacturers to this point have each individually set and pursued their own technology roadmaps. 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 NPD Solarbuzz’s latest “PV Equipment Quarterly” report.
“Previously, the PV industry was pursuing a wide range of manufacturing technologies across different c-Si and thin-film types,” elaborated analyst Ray Lian. “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.”
NPD Solarbuzz forecasts that the shakeout now taking place in solar PV manufacturing is going to continue, resulting in a market and industry sector with a lot fewer players. There were nearly 400 silicon and thin-film PV manufacturers in 2011. That’s going to be whittled down to less than 100 by 2016.
Thinning out and consolidation among PV manufacturers will be accompanied by a changing landscape of PV manufacturing tool and equipment suppliers, as current market leaders are challenged by new capital equipment suppliers. There’s a significant difference between the two industry sectors, and that’s going to make for different market dynamics and outcomes, however.
“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.”
New orders across the solar PV equipment supply chain are stuck at a five-year low, as overcapacity continues to hang over a market in which fundamental demand factors are weakening. NPD Solarbuzz foresees this situation continuing through 1H 2013.
“With PV CapEx in 2012 confined to maintenance-only levels, the short-term emphasis has turned firmly to cost reduction to restore corporate profitability,” Lian commented. “By mid-2013 however, silicon and non-silicon costs will have reached record lows. At this stage, the tier 1 c-Si leaders will be able to focus collectively on formulating a new PV technology roadmap.”
Offering a heads-up to crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV equipment suppliers, NPD Solarbuzz says they need to act fast and “cannibalize the multi-GW of un-installed tools purchased during the over-spending in 2010 and 2011. The new PV technology roadmap will greatly assist equipment suppliers in achieving this goal in 2013.”
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.