German Photovoltaic Equipment Manufacturers: Order Books Fill Up – Promising Opportunities in the U.S.

German Photovoltaic Equipment Manufacturers: Order Books Fill Up – Promising Opportunities in the U.S.

Turnover development in the first quarter weak as expected – significant increase in incoming orders

By Florian Wessendoff, VDMA

The turnover development for the manufacturers of components, machinery and equipment of photovoltaics in Germany has taken a little break at the beginning of 2015. Compared to the same quarter last year it has decreased by more than 30 percent. That does not come as a surprise. The intensification and extension of the U.S. protective tariffs on Chinese and Taiwanese solar products in the middle of last year has led to a period of uncertainty and investment restraint. As a consequence, order development in the first half of 2014 was very low. The effects of the trade conflict are felt by the industry as a whole and do not really influence the good market position of the Germany PV equipment industry. With a world market share of more than 50 percent the German PV equipment industry could keep its excellent position in an internationally highly competitive environment.

Business in Asia Shrinks – Cell Equipment Remains Segment with Strongest Turnover

In the first quarter of 2015 the export ratio of the German photovoltaic equipment suppliers remained slightly below the long-term average, but with almost 77 it reached quite a high value again.

Business with East Asia remains the “bread and butter”. However, its share of the entire market amounted to only 55 percent at the beginning of the year 2015. Here the effects of postponed orders from the traditionally leading markets for PV, China and Taiwan, during the last 6 months become obvious.

Positive signals with regard to turnover development are received from Germany and the U.S.: turnover in Germany increased by more than 40 percent compared to the previous quarter. Business with the U.S. remains stable and continues to provide a dynamic field for growth.

Equipment for cell production (45 percent) was the segment with the highest turnover for the German PV equipment industry at the beginning of this year. It was followed by production solutions for thin-film PV (30 percent). Equipment for the crystalline backend – module production – amounted to 5 percent, equipment for the production of poly-silicon, ingots and wafers accounted for 21 percent of the turnover.

Order Income Develops Dynamically

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Positive news is received with regard to order income. Compared to the last quarter, a fat plus of more than 56 percent was achieved with an interestingly high regional spread: Asia with 32 percent, Germany with 24 percent, Europe with 20 percent and the U.S. with 24 percent.

While order income from Asia continued to decrease, orders from the other regions partly increased significantly. The order situation of the German photovoltaic equipment industry makes us optimistic. Leading manufacturers invest again in technology and production solutions. As a consequence we expect a further upswing in incoming orders in the next few months and then an increase in turnover as well. The order range of photovoltaic manufacturers was 5.0 production months at the end of the first quarter of 2015 and thus was a little below the average of the entire machinery industry (5.9 months in February 2015).

Promising Opportunities in the U.S. 

The United States become more and more interesting as PV production hub. The majority of planned production is targeting future demand requirements in North America and the preliminary anti-dumping ruling has a good part to play in some of the decisions. Starting already in last year 2015 will become the turnaround year for North America, primarily the U.S., with a number of manufacturers announcing capacity expansions:

  • SolarWorld Americas (Hillsboro):  Module manufacturing capacity from 380 MW to 520 MW. Cell manufacturing capacity from 100 MW to 435 MW
  • Suniva: 200 MW (mono cell + module) in Michigan
  • First Solar: two productions lines to added at Perrysburg in Ohio
  • Solarcity: 1 GW (high-efficiency cell + module) in Up-State New York
  • Siva Power announced to start production (thin film) at the beginning of 2016.
  • Mission Solar Energy to double capacity at San Antonio
  • Suniva announced to expand capacity in Georgia
  • 1366 Technologies is looking for the best place to invest in a 250 MW wafer manufacturing site
  • REC Silicon: to add 3.000 mt in Moses Lake, WA
  • Wacker: poly facility is going to start production in Charleston, TN in mid 2015

This offers PV equipment manufacturers a variety of opportunities. Intersolar North America (July 14-16) has the highest density of PV manufacturing exhibits as well as the highest quality conference/program compared to any other U.S. solar event.

June 24, 2015