Oerlikon Solar tops VLSI Research list of solar turnkey line suppliers


Oerlikon Solar maintained a comfortable lead in 2008 among among solar turnkey manufacturing line providers in rankings released by VLSI Research. Centrotherm took over the second-place slot from Roth & Rau, which dropped to the third position, while Applied Materials and Schmid Gruppe rounded out the top five.

Oerlikon saw its turnkey business revenues nearly triple year over year, going from $250 million in 2007 to $664 million last year, according to the survey. Andrew Thomas, a VLSI Research analyst, explained that the company “was first to market with a large-scale turnkey solution for silicon thin-film-on-glass technology, and they definitely benefitted in 2008 from the first-mover advantage.”

He pointed out that Oerlikon continues to announce new contracts and expects the company to profit further as existing customers seek to upgrade to its tandem-junction a-Si technology and to expand manufacturing capacity in the future, despite challenging economic conditions.

The research firm attributes Centrotherm’s purchase of GP Solar as a contributing factor to the PV turnkey supplier’s move up the rankings list. The acquisition allowed the company to build up a formidable product range and provide turnkey solutions for both module and cell lines, helping drive its revenues in the space from $66 million in 2007 to $174 million in 2008.

Roth & Rau was not far behind its German counterparts, seeing turnkey revenues from their silicon wafer-based cell manufacturing lines tise from $78 million to $162 million, according to VLSI Research’s data.

Applied Materials entered the turnkey market for the first time in 2008 with its SunFab silicon thin-film-on-glass line, garnering $106 million during the year, while Schmid Gruppe rounded out the top five with sales of $96 million in 2008 for its cell and module lines, the market research firm said.

Other thin-film PV processes are now a part of the turnkey offerings spectrum as well. Centrotherm has added a CIGS-on-glass platform to its product suite, while Roth & Rau will soon offer a CdTe line to its customers.
Turnkey PV manufacturing lines are a particularly attractive way for companies with little or no experience in the PV industry to enter the market, says VLSI Research, and the relative ease of financing before 2009 has fueled rapid growth in the sector.

Other turnkey silicon and thin-film PV cell and module production line suppliers include Spire, GT Solar, 3S Swiss Solar, Kuka, OTB Solar, Amelio Solar, and Ulvac.

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