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Asia drives solar PV manufacturing equipment growth

Spending on solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing equipment grew for the 6th consecutive quarter driven by rising demand from Asia, according to Solarbuzz.

By Isabella Kaminski

Overall solar PV manufacturing capacity grew by 1.25 GW during the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2010, according to Solarbuzz's latest Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly report, bringing total additional c-Si cell and thin-film solar panel capacity throughout the year to 11.5 GW.

Spending by c-Si ingot-to-module and thin-film solar panel producers grew to US$2.9 billion in Q4. However, 85% of c-Si cell revenues and 60% of thin-film revenues in 2010 came from solar PV manufacturers in Asia.

The leading equipment beneficiary during 2010 was Applied Materials. Its revenue estimates from solar PV are US$1.3-1.5bn – over US$500 million more than any other solar PV equipment supplier for 2010.

Solarbuzz says growth was driven by tier 1 Chinese c-Si producers and strong investment in existing and emerging thin-film technologies. It says the geographic shift in PV manufacturing to China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia represented the greatest opportunity for the equipment supply chain.

By comparison, revenues for tool suppliers from European solar PV manufacturers continued to decline. Collectively, Centrotherm and Roth & Rau generated only 12% of solar PV revenues from European customers in 2010, compared to 33% back in 2008.

Solarbuzz predicts that rising equipment demand from Asian cell manufacturers will be the primary driver of global industry revenues during 2011, which are forecast to grow from $10.7bn in 2010 to $11.7bn.

Solar PV equipment suppliers also posted record backlogs last year; at the end of Q4 there were 20 equipment suppliers with order backlogs in excess of $100m.

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