Why capex investment for c-Si expansion remains a safe bet

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
Email

Aligning with PV industry leaders with a long-term strategic roadmap is a given prerequisite for equipment adoption by every tool supplier, regardless of the segments their equipment serves. But realizing this in practice can be a different challenge altogether. Such has been the dilemma for many equipment suppliers seeking to break into the PV equipment supply chain or diversify from one customer group or cell technology to another.

And it gets all the more challenging for tool suppliers when digesting the plethora of headline announcements afforded to new PV start-ups, hefty VC investment rounds, hero data from research labs, or framework agreements calling out for large MW deliveries from as-yet unqualified technologies.

Fortunately during the period from 2006-2009, there was so much investment within the industry — especially at the midstream c-Si cell and thin-film panel stages of the value chain — that equipment was being purchased at record levels from a diverse set of tool builders. Short-term order books and backlogs looked great for key process tool suppliers selling to almost any c-Si, a-Si/uc-Si, CIGS, and CdTe manufacturer.

Within thin film, the supply chains got even more fragmented with widely varying glass panel sizes or flexible R2R-based technologies. But nobody was complaining too much back then!

Subsequently, the midstream manufacturing base today ranges from $100M thin-film fabs at single-digit utilization rates to newly installed GW-capacity c-Si fabs covering ingot/wafer/cell lines and running at near 100% utilization rates. Reporting from leading tool suppliers matches this reality, with repeat orders for c-Si based tools very much to the fore and forecast to remain like this well into 2011.

To gauge the effectiveness — or productivity — of equipment spending across the main technologies today within the industry, a particularly intuitive insight can be gleaned by looking simply at how much production has been enabled from all the tooling purchased during recent times.

The output then provides some pretty powerful metrics on technology maturity or equipment adoption: factors that directly affect the rate to which repeat equipment orders are then placed down through the supply chain.

Adapted from analysis contained within forthcoming Solarbuzz PV equipment report to be released at the start of October, the attached figure illustrates the above with illuminating clarity. For completeness here, and to capture equipment spending on technologies which have multiyear R&D-to-production cycle times, we fold in all cumulative spending back to 2000 and compare this to the cumulative production each year between 2005 and 2010.

Aside from the impact of First Solar’s rise to prominence – and the associated equipment utilized here – all eyes are firmly on the growth trajectories now for both a-Si/uc-Si and CIGS technologies which have been the recipients of significant investments. Putting aside the handful of players kitting out new a-Si/uc-Si and CIGS fabs today, follow-on orders for much of the thin-film supply chain will only come to fruition when these technologies start to gain market share and justify further expansion with additional capex spend. So up until now, the safe bet has been alignment with one of a dozen or so leading c-Si manufacturers or the above noted thin-film market leader.

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!
23 November 2021
The solar, storage and EV industries in the UK are going from strength to strength. There is no better place for the community to meet, share ideas and do business than Solar & Storage Live from 23-25 November at the NEC.There’s something for everyone; more than 150 exhibitors, a high-level conference, a start up and innovation zone, a poster zone, strategic partners to network with and much more. 
1 December 2021
Understand fully the technical and logistical supply chains that determine the production and performance of solar modules, including all related factors impacting quality, reliability & bankability. This event will be run online with streamed content, access to session recordings and chat/messaging tools for delegates to connect.
2 December 2021
Intersolar is the world’s leading exhibition & conference series for the solar industry. As part of this event series, Intersolar India in Mumbai is India’s most pioneering exhibition and conference for India’s solar industry. It takes place annually and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. Since 2019, Intersolar India is held under the umbrella of The smarter E India – India’s innovation hub for the new energy world.
13 January 2022
Intersolar North America and Energy Storage North America “Come Together” for the first time in Long Beach, CA—connecting installers, developers, utilities, technology providers, policy makers, and key stakeholders from around the world to advance the clean energy future. With best-in-class conference programming, integrated exhibits and pavilions, and the live Solar Games installer competition, #isnaesna21 will showcase the industry trends, innovative solutions, and emerging talent transforming the solar, energy storage, and e-mobility markets. Register today to redeem our exclusive offer for PV Tech readers—free expo hall or 20% off full conference pass.

Read Next

October 22, 2021
Alight has signed agreements to build three solar parks in Sweden that according to the company will be the largest in Sweden once built with a total installed capacity of 90MW.
October 22, 2021
The clean energy business of US utility NextEra Energy had a record quarter of origination success in Q3, adding approximately 2,160MW to its backlog, including 515MW of new solar projects.
October 22, 2021
The US Department of Energy (DOE) is to fund projects aiming to extend the operational lifetime of solar PV projects to 50 years and support the development of advanced materials such as perovskites.
October 22, 2021
Essentia Energia has begun operations at its 475MW Sol do Sertao solar power plant in the Brazilian state of Bahia
PV Tech Premium
October 22, 2021
Average winning solar bids in Spain’s renewables auction this week came in above those for wind as interest among PV bidders faltered against a backdrop of rising equipment costs and regulatory uncertainty.
October 22, 2021
Norwegian energy giant Statkraft has released a report that urges greater action on decarbonisation to meet climate targets, puts renewables at the centre of any strategy and places huge importance on the role of green hydrogen.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

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