SAN JOSE, Calif. Equipment vendors are jockeying for position by forming various alliances to capitalize on the booming solar photovoltaic market.
Recently, for example, CVD Equipment Corp. (Ronkonkoma, N.Y.) acquired First Nano Inc. (Carpinteria, Calif.), a supplier of chemical vapor deposition process equipment for the synthesis of a variety of carbon nanotubes, one-dimensional nanostructures and nanomaterials. CVD Equipment is a manufacturer of CVD equipment for the semiconductor, compound semiconductor, MEMS, solar power, and industrial markets (see May 13 story).
And on Thursday (June 2), Spire Corp. said that it has forged an agreement with Japan's Nisshinbo Industries Inc. for the development, manufacturing, and sales of solar photovoltaic module manufacturing equipment.
Under the terms of the consortium agreement, Nisshinbo (Tokyo) has purchased a license to manufacture and sell Spire module manufacturing equipment for an undisclosed amount and additional royalties over a ten-year term.
Spire (Bedford, Mass) and Nisshinbo have also agreed to pursue joint research and development in the arena. The deal is in response to the "explosion" of the solar cell industry, said Roger G. Little, chairman and CEO of Spire.
Indeed, on Wednesday (June 1), GT Equipment Technologies Inc. (Merrimack, N.Y.) claimed record growth in its solar-cell equipment business. GT designs, manufactures, assembles, programs and installs turn-key fabrication lines for all three stages of the photovoltaic manufacturing chain: wafers, cells and modules.
The company claimed to have generated more revenue growth in the fiscal year just ended, March 31, than at any time in its 11-year history. The growth was in the company's solar division, GT Solar Technologies Inc.
The $38 million of business already booked for the next fiscal year far exceeds the nearly $23 million in total revenues for the company's fiscal year ended March 31, 2005, GT claimed.
"The unprecedented demand for solar energy equipment throughout the world is driving our business," said Kedar Gupta, chairman and CEO, in a statement. "Demand is being driven by a combination of government incentives in certain countries, the supply and price of oil, and by improvements in the efficiency and cost of solar photovoltaic technology."
"There has also been a dramatic cost reduction in the manufacturing process with the costs of solar photovoltaic production declining by 80 percent to 90 percent over the past 20 years," said Tom Zarrella, president and COO, in a statment. "With the solar photovoltaics market growing by more than 30 percent a year, the solar division of GT Equipment Technologies is a beneficiary of that growth, and we have positioned the company accordingly."
There are some problematic issues for the industry, however. Prices for polycrystalline materials have jumped by approximately 25 percent in recent times amid ongoing and severe shortages in the marketplace. The troubling supply and pricing trends for these materials could hamper the overall growth rates in the semiconductor and solar cell industries, according to analysts (see May 20 story).