Although only one of many markets for semiconductor power devices, the solar inverter industry has been struggling with severe component shortages since mid-2009 as the semiconductor manufacturers that make the necessary products timidly started ramping fabs again after a severe downturn. However, one of these key suppliers, Mitsubishi Electric is going a further step and actually increasing capacity to meet demand.
The company plans to invest 6.5 billion yen to expand its 200mm wafer production capacity for power devices by approximately 2.5 times that of the previous fiscal year. The expansion, to be conducted in several stages, will be completed by April 2011. The company will also invest 3.5 billion yen to increase its assembly and testing capacities.
Recently, iSuppli Corp noted that various key commodity electronic components are now are in a state of critically short supply causing prices to rise and delaying deliveries of parts to customers to worrying lengths.
The supply situation is even more critical for standard logic ICs and power management discretes such as low-voltage MOSFETs and tantalum capacitors, which now are experiencing shortages and effectively are on allocation status, meaning suppliers are unable to respond to un-forecasted demand.
The lead time in June was 20 weeks for power MOSFETs according to the market research firm. In comparison, normal lead times for such products typically run to approximately 10 to 12 weeks.
Although the expansion plans by Mitsubishi Electric will take until next year, other semiconductor firms are expected to follow with increased production, which should in turn help the inverter manufacturers meet growing worldwide demand next year.
SMA Solar recently noted that component shortages were expected to ease slightly in the second-half of 2010.