GTM Research report notes tough times for thin-film PV, projects upswing around 2015

It is no surprise that thin film has had some trouble for the past few months and GTM Research’s latest report, Thin Film 2012-2016: Technologies, Markets and Strategies for Survival, points out that the technology’s global market share dropped to 11% in 2011, after peaking at almost 20% in 2009. These days, the report states, thin film is surrounded by a highly competitive PV supply market with oversupply bringing cSi technology to global markets at less than US$1 per watt.

“With Tier One c-Si PV prices dropping to averages of US$0.87 per watt in 2012, thin film manufacturers must now be more frugal, technologically aggressive, and creative in implementing downstream strategies that will help them survive current competition and develop secure markets down the road,” said MJ Shiao, senior analyst at GTM Research and the report’s lead author.

The report advised that the technology’s production and total market value is expected to fall below US$3 billion in 2012, however, hope is on the horizon, as GTM predicts an upswing for thin film in 2015 to 2016 with a market recovery of US$7.6 billion. According to the report, however, the industry’s come back will depend on the success of First Solar and the completion of efficiency, yield and scale road maps from other thin film manufacturers.

GTM predicts that by 2016, CIGS technology will see the biggest growth, with the report anticipating 4GW in four years. Companies like Solar Frontier, MiaSolé and TSMC are expected to be the lead thin film suppliers over the next few years with the cost of manufacturing inching towards US$0.50 per watt. The report additionally noted that venture investments in CIGS, notwithstanding lower valuations, exceeded US$305 million over the past two quarters. GTM expressed confidence that growing interest from global industrial firms were only bringing more, and significant, acquisitions in the future.

“Thin-film PV has historically been led by a few manufacturers and a long tail of aspirants, because thin film manufacturing IP is heavily guarded,” said Shiao. “Only those that have the delicate recipe that balances high yields and efficiencies, cash preservation in a bitter demand market, a pinch of downstream integration, and a corporate balance sheet to soften bankability doubts will taste the sweetness of market success.”

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