European and American Equipment Manufacturers are Riding the High-Efficiency Wave

European and American Equipment Manufacturers are Riding the High-Efficiency Wave

By Tiffany Huang, Lux Research

European and American solar equipment manufacturers are seeing much stronger sales in 2015 compared to 2014. Since late 2014, Meyer Burger has been selected by multiple cell and module manufacturers including Hanwha Q-Cells, SolarWorld, Trina, and most recently Lerri Solar, for its passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) production equipment. It's now expecting to see solar increase from 60 percent of its sales in 2014 to 75 percent of its sales in 2015. Schmid has also seen a pickup in sales starting from late 2014, with companies like JA Solar, Solar Systems, and three undisclosed Asian manufacturers ordering its high efficiency production products. In addition, Amtech has also reported that it currently has its largest backlog of orders since 2012.

European and American equipment manufacturers had been cornered into developing equipment for high-efficiency products due to the flood of less expensive Chinese imitation equipment for more standard products. However, now the move, chosen or not, is paying off. Module and cell manufacturers are not only in the midst of replacing outdated equipment, but are also looking to install new manufacturing capacity for high-efficiency cells. Distributed generation is driving this high-efficiency market, since it emphasizes higher solar harvesting per unit area, compared to utility markets that are looking for the cheapest solution. As Chinese equipment manufacturers are not up to speed on these new technologies, cell and module manufacturers that want to tap this sector will have to turn to the more expensive American and European equipment.

These manufacturers have also learned to keep their tools as trade secrets to slow down development or even prevent copycat equipment. PERC expansion will give these equipment manufacturers the biggest boost in 2015 and ending in 2016, as cell and module manufacturers fight to stay competitive with each other. Companies like Schmid and Meyer Burger, which are releasing tools for heterojunction production equipment and passivated emitter rear totally diffused (PERT) production equipment, respectively, will even sustain sales into 2017 and 2018, when cell and module manufacturers like Trina and Yingli start commercializing these new technologies. Those looking for opportunities in the solar space should aim to partner with leading equipment developers like Schmid and Meyer Burger, or look to develop even higher efficiency technologies like HJT, interdigitated back contact (IBC) and hybrids (HJT-IBC) that will emerge in 2017 or beyond. Look for an upcoming Lux Research report on high-efficiency cell technology and opportunities.

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June 24, 2015