At first glance, revenue opportunities for this year’s equipment market do not hold much promise. According to IMS Researchs latest quarterly report, "The World Market for PV Manufacturing Equipment", revenue declines of over 65 percent are expected in 2012.
This is mainly due to the fact solar ingot, wafer, cell and module manufacturers are all said to be placing less emphasis on ramping up production capacities, because of overcapacity in 2011, and are instead focusing on achieving higher efficiencies and improved product quality.
However, the company believes there is a 20 GW, US$25 billion opportunity over the next four years for equipment providers to replace aging equipment, either via upgrades or complete replacements. Furthermore, IMS says this segment will generate the majority of equipment revenues this year.
In a statement released, it explains, "The current lull in new demand and capacity across the supply chain will provide a potential opportunity for PV-product makers to gain market share longer-term through upgrading equipment now."
Specifically, says senior research director, Tim Dawson, IMS estimates that between 2.5 and four GW worth of manufacturing capacity will need to be upgraded this year. This figure is set to increase over the next few years.
"The biggest efficiency gains are achievable at the ingot- and cell-production stages of the manufacturing process. Equipment makers producing machinery for use at these stages will benefit the most," Dawson additionally tells pv magazine.
He further believes that the "inevitable" market shakeout will remove weaker photovoltaic product makers, thus creating more demand for equipment in the long run.