EU PVSEC: Doors close on price war

During the week-long trade fair, according to Goetz Fischbeck from BHF Bank, falling prices was the major story.

Due to slow demand and high inventory levels, Chinese Tier 1 manufacturers lowered their prices during the show from 0.89 euro cents per watt peak (p/Wp) on the Monday to 0.76 p/Wp by Thursday. By the final day of the show, Tier 2 manufacturers were selling their modules below 0.70 euro cents p/Wp.

At the first business forum held at EU PVSEC, Chinese manufacturer LDK’s Stuart Brannigan said that he believed that many integrators were waiting for prices to hit rock bottom before committing.

BHF’s Fischbeck, in his analysis, continues that at these pricing levels, for 2012 deliveries, "all top manufactures from China agree that prices for modules will be below 0.70 euro cents p/Wp," which is less than breakeven prices. European manufacturers may also suffer under these price pressures.

"The shakeout of the photovoltaic manufactures has just begun," concludes Fischbeck. "Only the companies with the strongest balance sheets that can endure potentially two years with significant losses stand a chance to survive."

Companies are currently reorganizing operations to reduce costs. Conergy announced today that it will shut down its wafer and cell operations in Germany, affecting around 300 workers.

German equipment manufacturers haven’t been spared the pain. At the beginning of the week, a report by the German equipment manufactures association (VDMA) has shown orders in third quarter of 2011 have fallen year-on-year by 56 percent.

"I’m optimistic that orders will pick up again soon," Peter Fath, spokesman from the VDMA photovoltaic section and CTO Centrotherm told pv magazine. Manz also reported that while orders were not flowing in, good interest was shown in its Copper Indium Gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) thin-film turnkey line.

Fischbeck is less optimistic for the German equipment suppliers, because they are facing increasing competition. "Chinese equipment suppliers have been able to capture up to 30 percent market share with the Tier 1 manufacturers from China and even higher shares with Tier 2 and Tier 3 manufactures."