Continued capacity expansions, especially at the Tier 1 PV module manufacturers, have kept the fourth-quarter 2010 PV book-to-bill ratio above parity at 1.10, according to the latest Solarbuzz ‘PV Equipment Quarterly report.’ A PV book-to-bill ratio of 1.10 for Q4’10 means that US$110 of orders were received by PV equipment suppliers for every US$100 of product shipped.
Indeed, the 12-month average in 2010 reached 1.27 compared to 0.97 for 2009, highlighting the expansions undertaken throughout the year as many manufacturers were capacity constrained.
“The latest PV book-to-bill figures reflect the ongoing investments across both c-Si and thin-film segments, which are driving strong capacity expansions planned for 2011,” noted Finlay Colville, senior analyst at Solarbuzz. “Tier 1 c-Si manufacturers are expanding to reach vertically-integrated GW+ status on the back of still-strong order books. Conversely, investments into a-Si/µc-Si and CIGS thin-film technologies represent the continued push by new entrants to find low-cost alternatives to First Solar’s exclusive challenge to c-Si dominance in the market today.”
Colville noted that Tier 1 designated c-Si cell and thin-film panel producers were responsible for supplying 75% of PV demand in 2010.
“Equipment supply to this crucial midstream solar cell manufacturing segment highlights the portion of overall PV capacity expansion that is most likely to drive the level and timing of any panel oversupply during 2H’11,” added Colville.
The market research analysts also noted that the PV book-to-bill ratio for Tier 1 manufacturers was higher than the overall figure in the fourth quarter. At 1.39, compared to the 12-month average of 1.26, indicates that the book-to-bill will dip below parity during Q2’11, representing signs of a capacity expansion slowdown and the beginning of a downturn in revenues on offer to leading PV equipment suppliers through 2H’11 and 1H’12.