ZURICH, Switzerland The solar photovoltaic industry might be a seller’s market for equipment manufacturers but representatives of the world’s leading photovoltaic product manufacturers are calling for suppliers to better address their needs. PV industry demands came across loud and clear at conferences running alongside the Photon Technology Show in Munich earlier this month.
Whereas in times past it had to make do with equipment originally developed for the semiconductor industry, the PV industry is getting big enough to push equipment suppliers to build specifically for it, according to delegates. But that pressure is counterbalanced by the strong growth in the industry which is making the need to acquire gear urgent and driving up prices.
Revenues for the photovoltaic industry grew to $17 billion last year, up from $10.6 billion in 2006, as tracked by market research firm Solarbuzz LLC (San Francisco, Calif.). Production capacity has grown at between 30 and 40 percent a year for the past five years. But it is a growth rate driven largely by government policies, incentives and subsidies.
"Today you choose your customers [due to government support], but tomorrow it will be a different case," said Philip Koecke, CTO SolarWorld, a German integrated manufacturer of solar products.
Rapid growth and swelling sales have attracted dozens of startups and established manufacturers from nearby sectors, as well as solar industry incumbents, to invest in factories to meet demand for polycrystalline silicon (also known as polysilicon or poly), solar cells, and modules, resulting in equipment order books filled for months ahead.