Having teased the PV equipment supply chain with its multi billion dollar thin-film CIGS capex plans, Hanergy has now revealed the first part of its plans.
In effect, Hanergy has awarded itself a US$780 million turnkey CIGS tool contract – something that will initially come as a disappointment to the previous tool suppliers waiting for an industry uptick in CIGS equipment. Indeed, Hanergy’s CIGS announcement comes on the back of Solar Frontier’s Fab 4 CIGS plans in Japan. In a similarly patriotic vein, Solar Frontier has been loyal to Japanese tool makers for its CIGS production lines in Japan.
Hanergy’s plans appear to show the first signs of favouritism in the three-horse CIGS race between the subsidiaries of Solibro, Miasolé and Global Solar Energy. While each had been pitching fervently within Hanergy to be part of the first round of CIGS spending, the two winners in phase one are Solibro and Miasolé: perhaps not a great surprise when viewing the production quantities of these two CIGS companies compared to Global Solar in the past.
The first round of plans has also identified a fab location in China in Hebei Province that is slated to hold up to 3GW of CIGS capacity. The first phase sees Solibro and Miasolé each being assigned 300MW of CIGS capacity. The likely timeline for mass production ramp will be the first half of 2015, but with the hindsight of Hanergy’s a-Si efforts over the past few years, strong caution will need to be applied by PV industry observers.
By awarding the turnkey CIGS tool contract to itself, Hanergy stated that its aim is to “allow the group to further develop the necessary capability and expertise and accumulate the experience to become the world’s leading CIGS turnkey line provider”.
Of course, given that there is no other CIGS turnkey line provider that has shipped anything in the past several years – and that no other CIGS turnkey line provider has any backlog of orders to ship today – it is perhaps not too difficult to become the world leader in this regard. Using 600MW of capacity to ‘develop expertise’ is a luxury that very few PV manufacturers can lay claim to right now.
What would be more interesting, however, would be if the goal was to become the world’s leading CIGS panel provider, with the highest efficiency in production, the lowest cost, and best yield and with the largest shipment volumes. But success with this recipe in the CIGS world represents an altogether different kettle of fish.
Internal revenues recognized by Hanergy’s tool-making subsidiary Apollo Solar during 2013, for legacy a-Si fabs built in China by Hanergy, were sufficient to promote Apollo Solar to become the leading PV equipment supplier last year.
With the new CIGS announcement from Hanergy today, the prospects of Hanergy keeping its in-house turnkey tool makers’ revenues higher than any other PV equipment supplier during 2014 and 2015 have just taken one giant step forward.