Solar shakeout: GT Advanced Technologies to exit DSS furnace business

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

Specialist PV equipment supplier, GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) said it would exit the Directional Solidification System (DSS) market altogether due to market conditions that are not expected to recover sufficiently to justify continued involvement in the sector.

GTAT, which is one of the largest PV equipment suppliers and clear leader in the ingot growth systems market would remove the majority of its DSS furnace equipment from its backlog and take a charge of between US$80 – US$90 million in Q4 2012 for inventory write down on DDS equipment and parts. The total write down of its DSS operations were said to be approximately US140 million.

However, management noted in a conference call to discuss 2013 guidance that it would continue to support customers with exiting tools.

The company had announced in late October that it would undergo a major restructuring due to market conditions in its core markets of solar, polysilicon and sapphire. The company had said then that it would reduce its workforce by approximately 25% and consolidate existing business units into a single ‘Crystal Growth Systems’ (CGS) group.

“It is comforting finally to hear a PV equipment supplier acknowledge the backlog issue. Many have buried debookings in other reporting metrics, or have been silent completely on this issue. Some choose to report new order intake, and sideline the whole bookings issue,” commented Finlay Colville, vice president of NPD Solarbuzz. “But perhaps the biggest question from the DSS bookings reset from GTAT is not related to GTAT activities, but to Meyer Burger. The backlog from Meyer Burger at the end of Q2’12 was still way above industry norms, and many of the customers that GTAT had on backlog for DSS furnaces would have been wire saw customers for Meyer Burger. With the prospects for wire saw deliveries in 2013 similar to DSS or Cz ingot tools, the question is what Meyer Burger will choose to keep on their books, and the risk that should be assigned to pending wire saw deliveries based on orders received from customers back in 2011.”

Order backlog


As a result of removing the DSS systems from its backlog, GTAT said that the total its total order backlog stood at US$1.2 billion, down from US$1.5 billion at the end of the third quarter. GTAT had also made a US$56.3 million negative adjustment to its order backlog in the quarter for a contract termination from a Chinese polysilicon start-up.

At the end of Q3 2012, GTAT’s order backlog had included approximately US$617.7 million in the polysilicon orders, US$141.4 million in the PV and US$717.6 million in the sapphire equipment orders.

2013 revenue guidance

Management said in the latest conference call that it expected revenue in 2013 to be in the range of US$500 – US$600 million. However, in respect to PV segment sales these are only expected to account for 1% of sales. Polysilicon segment sales were expected to account of 42% of sales in 2013.

Quasi-mono future?

GTAT’s exit from the DSS market puts further doubt on the viability of the PV industry migrating to quasi-mono wafers, which was seen by GTAT as a key driver of future furnace sales and upgrades from the struggling wafering sector.

Gloomy outlook

As far as Tom Gutierrez, CEO of GTAT was concerned in the call, little if any capital is being made available to the PV sector in China, its major market, especially not for capacity expansions. He noted in the call that what capital was being offered to PV manufacturers focused on working capital only that secured jobs, with little possibility in 2013 that capital would be allocated for new technology, despite the need to reduce manufacturing costs still further.

The propping –up of Chinese PV companies would result in less consolidation, prolonging the structural overcapacity within the industry instead of many firms exiting the sector due to bankruptcy.

Overall, Gutierrez painted a rather dark and gloomy outlook for the PV sector for 2013, while speculating that China would impose duties on imported polysilicon to support domestic producers and that the EU is increasingly believed to preparing penalties and tariffs on imported Chinese modules. 

“We believe that many PV players are facing bankruptcy as there is, in our opinion, no identifiable path to improved profitability absent adoption of new technology that drives costs down well below current levels,” noted Gutierrez.

18 October 2021
Intersolar South America, South America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry, takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil on October 18–20, 2021, and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. At the accompanying Intersolar South America Conference, renowned experts shed light on hot topics in the solar industry.
19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.
20 October 2021
Utility-scale solar is evolving, shaped by higher power modules and demand for increasingly lower levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). Those trends are also changing project requirements elsewhere, with inverters capable of delivering high power density and power capacity in strong demand. In this webinar, FIMER will detail how its innovative high-power, multi-MPPT string inverter and modular conversion solution can both meet those demands and transform the utility-scale solar sector for the better.
20 October 2021
The race is on but we need to sprint… With global climate talks fast approaching and time running out to prevent the most disastrous impacts of climate change, now is the time to act. The Summit will explore the opportunities that emerge from taking action on climate change and provide a clear pathway forward for governments, citizens and companies. Taking place just 10 days before the G20 meeting in Rome, on 30-31 of October, and in the lead up to the critical COP26 meeting in Glasgow from 31 October–12 November, this event will be instrumental in influencing ambitious global action.
10 November 2021
The solar tracker market continues to mature at breakneck speed, with designs and component selections becoming ever-more complex in the pursuit of better project economics. But a more simplistic design could deliver a triple benefit of lower Capex, EPC and Opex costs. This webinar will set out the ideal single axis tracker design for utility-scale solar farms. The design leapfrogs from decades of experience, with a comprehensive understanding and attention to the three cost structures of Capex, EPC and Opx. Sun and Steel Solar has prototyped a single axis tracker designed to deliver up to US$0.03/W in real savings compared to existing single axis trackers on the market. That’s US$30 million for every gigawatt deployed.
15 November 2021
The 10th edition of the famous Metallization and Interconnection Workshop, MIW2021, will take place in the Thor Central venue in Genk, Belgium, on Monday, November 15, and Tuesday, November 16, 2021 as a face-to-face meeting. We are longing for direct exchange of knowledge and ideas after a long time. Hopefully you can be part of it! But of course, the organizors will keep an eye on the evolution of the Covid pandemic. It will be assess carefully, whether the workshop can be held without major risks or excessive restrictions. We are looking forward to exciting talks, discussions and meetings and to welcoming you in Genk!

Read Next

October 15, 2021
US residential solar financier GoodLeap has raised US$800 million to expand into the broader market for sustainable home improvement, other carbon-reducing products and later commercial offerings and electric vehicles (EVs).
October 15, 2021
Doral Renewables has broken ground on the 1.65GWdc Mammoth Solar project in Indiana, set to be the US’ largest solar farm once complete.
October 15, 2021
European renewables investment management firm Greencoat Capital has confirmed its entry to the US renewables market and is plotting to invest up to US$5 billion over the next five years.
October 15, 2021
The European Commission (EC) has urged member states to accelerate solar deployment in order to tackle Europe’s rising electricity prices and has released a ‘toolbox’ to address the short-term impact of prices and strengthen resilience against future shocks
October 14, 2021
Europe’s most competitive renewable power purchase agreement (PPA) offers rose 8% quarter-on-quarter as Europe’s worsening energy crisis bites, according to US firm LevelTen Energy’s Q3 2021 PPA Price Index report.
October 14, 2021
JinkoSolar has laid claim to a new n-type monocrystalline silicon solar cell conversion efficiency record, taking that efficiency rating to 25.4%.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
Upcoming Webinars
November 10, 2021
8am (PST) | 5pm (CET)
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021