Would the leading PV equipment supplier please stand up?

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

It is hard to imagine any marketing scenario in which citing leading ranking metrics would be off the radar. But just think for one minute: when was the last time a PV equipment supplier announced leading ranking status with any fanfare? Or proclaimed a purchase order that would catapult revenues beyond fiscal year guided levels?

PV capital equipment spending and technology adoption is barely capturing an afterthought today. Everyone is putting on a brave face, but the facts are beyond dispute. Actually, the dearth of action could lead to the conclusion that technology innovation and the PV industry are mutually exclusive (aside from the R&D efforts of a small handful of historic technology innovators).

Thankfully, the climate today is just a symptom of a reset phase for technology and manufacturing within the PV industry, but also another indication of the difficulties any technology segment is confronted with when there are diverse and competing voices advocating different technology and process flows as the way forward. And when being a leading module supplier required little, if any, technology innovation.

Certainly, these issues are having a catastrophic impact on the PV equipment supply-chain during 2013, and there has been plenty of press about this. But reminding suppliers that equipment spending is at a seven or eight- year low in 2013 is barely news any more – everyone knew this fact over 12-18 months ago when orders dried up. Suppliers don’t exactly need third-party research to discover that their order books are depleted!

But more alarming are some of the messages on future equipment spending trends. Sending out red flags that equipment spending could remain at similar levels (to 2013) for a further five years is more worrying, and possibly somewhat naïve and short-sighted. However, it is likely more an indication of the errors in analysis that come from doing simplistic top-down nameplate-capacity/end-market-demand comparisons to generate CapEx activity.

There is only one way to forecast CapEx, and that is bottom-up from the production line level, with segmentation by process flow variant and tool alternative. And comparing this directly to equipment supplier tool type shipments and market-share analyses. Any top-down analysis misses this activity completely, and generates misleading data for tool suppliers to the PV industry.

The ranking dilemma

Ranking metrics used to be key marketing tools for the PV equipment supply chain. There is no surprise here. Heading any rankings list is marketing nirvana, and having gold medal status for 12 months is priceless.

As shown in the attached table, Centrotherm was the leading PV equipment supplier during 2006 and 2007. Applied Materials then dominated PV tool revenues for four years from 2008 to 2011. In 2012, Meyer Burger recognised the most PV specific revenues for the first time. In 2013, leading revenues are likely to be assigned to one of GT Advanced Technologies, Hanergy Solar (formerly known as Apollo Solar) or Meyer Burger.

Note that rankings should be done purely on revenue recognition, not on tool shipment. This subtle distinction came into play prominently at the end of 2011 when so much equipment was shipped with deferred payment conditions. It is also noteworthy that, of the three prospective leaders for 2013, only GT Advanced Technologies is currently shipping based on a low-risk backlog and firm delivery dates from customers. Hanergy’s revenues are exclusively linked to financial transactions between Hanergy Solar (as the parent company) and the former Apollo Solar (as the in-house turnkey line supplier for the multiple Chinese a-Si based fabs of Apollo).

It is perhaps understandable that ranking euphoria has deserted the to-do lists of the respective marketing departments of almost all PV equipment suppliers. Claiming the number one PV equipment supplier position when revenues are dominated by the efficiency of accounting departments (in recognising receivables) – and when new order intake has been so low for over 12 months – may come over as somewhat misplaced euphoria or an indication that ranking status glory is overshadowing operational reorganisation reality.

Perhaps a new ranking scheme should be created that is more valuable: one based upon R&D tool spending or upgrade-equipment revenues? Indeed, as a leading indicator for PV equipment and technology road-mapping, such as ranking list would be extremely useful.

Of course, the litmus test would be if the equipment is being used in anger, but just refocusing now away from the doom-and-gloom reality of the past 12-18 months would only be a positive move. It is only a matter of time until technology spending tops the rankings again for the entire manufacturing segment.

23 February 2022
Held annually since 2016, the Energy Storage Summit Europe is the place to be for senior stakeholders in the European storage industry. Designed to accelerate deployment of storage, we examine evolving chemistries, business models, project design, revenue stacks and use cases for storage. The 2022 edition will include exclusive content around longer duration solutions, energy strategies for wide-scale deployment of EVs and "EnTech", the event which sits at the intersection of digitisation, decentralisation and decarbonation of the power system. Come to meet TSOs, DSOs, Utilities, Developers, Investors and Lenders and leave with new contacts, partners and a wealth of information.
7 March 2022
Take your chance to join the most powerful platform in the MENA region. Middle East Energy (MEE), Intersolar, and ees, the leading energy exhibitions are joining hands to co-deliver an outstanding renewables and energy storage event at Middle East Energy 2021. Renewables and energy storage at MEE is the largest gathering of solar and renewable energy industry professionals in the Middle East & Africa, offering the most effective trade focused platform to international manufacturers and distributors looking to meet regional buyers.
8 March 2022
As Solar Finance & Investment enters its ninth year, we sit on the cusp of a new power market with solar at its heart. The 2022 edition of the event will build on our years of expertise and relationships to bring investors and lenders together with top developers. Connect with leaders in the field and use exclusive insights to drive investment and development decisions for the future. Meet new and existing project partners at the largest gathering of European solar investors and lenders.
23 March 2022
When it comes to storage, the US market exceeded a gigawatt of advanced energy storage installations (weighted towards lithium ion) at 1.46 GW, more than the previous six years in total! An exponential growth rate could see the market hit 7.5 GW p.a. by 2025. The summit will provide a wealth of content around this vital piece in the US power puzzle, with sessions dedicated to explore how companies are making money from batteries, the latest chemistries and their applications as they apply to different use-cases. We ask how investors can match ESG criteria to batteries and we will bring case studies of successful deployment and project execution onto the stage to examine how you can ensure your own projects are successful.
29 March 2022
Now in its 10th sell-out year, Large Scale Solar returns to Lisbon in 2022. We are excited to gather together face-to-face with the European solar industry as we provide unique and exclusive access to a powerful selection of the market's key stakeholders. Join this elite summit to find out how the market is maturing, which new markets are becoming more exciting, how technology is evolving and who's driving the market forward into the 2020s. Always senior, packed with developers, EPCs, utilities and investors this is the event for companies serious about European solar PV.
7 April 2022
Solarex Istanbul, Turkey’s first and unique exhibition on solar energy, provides a huge opportunity to Turkey on the way to being a solar energy hub. Solarex Istanbul will take place on 7-9 April 2022 for the 14th time. It will be a commercial platform to have the latest technologies and combination of new products from all around the world. It takes place annually at Istanbul Expo Center, Turkey. It is also called the most important platform for manufacturers, suppliers and dealers of the solar industry in Eurasia.

Read Next

January 27, 2022
Italian asset manager Green Arrow Capital (GAC) has signed a framework agreement with Spanish solar company Progressum Energy Developments (PED) to acquire 508MW of ready-to-build solar PV projects in Spain in a deal worth over €400 million (US$446 million).
January 27, 2022
Tesla’s solar installations jumped 68% in 2021 to 345MW despite a slight dip in additions year-on-year during the fourth quarter.
January 27, 2022
Major European solar developers have called on the European Union (EU) to develop a PV supply chain strategy to avoid cost increases and disruption to projects, with the group calling for 20GW of manufacturing capacity by 2030.
PV Tech Premium
January 26, 2022
s solar finds itself deployed in further and more far flung climes, it is also having to operate in increasingly harsher climates. In this article, VDE Renewables assesses how such climates affect PV performance and what must be taken into consideration when formulating O&M strategies.
January 26, 2022
The CEO of US utility NextEra Energy has said that while he thinks it is “more likely than not” that the clean energy piece of the country's Build Back Better (BBB) bill gets acted on this year, the company doesn’t need policy support included in the legislation to achieve its targets.
January 26, 2022
Leading US solar installer Sunrun has upsized its loan facility to US$425 million from US$250 million at “enhanced terms and longer tenor” to reflect the company’s higher valuation and strong performance.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 8, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal
Solar Media Events
April 25, 2022
Berlin, Germany