SNEC: Big equipment on show


While the mood in some parts of the photovoltaic industry has been muted of late, China is still being seen as having great potential as both an end market for manufacturers and also as a key market for equipment suppliers. Both centrotherm photovoltaics and Manz AG had a strong presence on the trade show floor, along with tier-one and tier-two module manufacturers.

The trade show left pv magazine with the impression that SNEC is bigger and better than previous years, with a more professional layout and organization and with four new trade-show halls opened to accommodate the over 2,000 exhibitors. Organizers say that they expect 200,000 attendees over the three days.

While German equipment supplier centrotherm has had to lay off some 400 employees in recent months, it is clear that the company is still investing in the Chinese photovoltaic market. The company was showcasing its "centaurus technology" for wafer and cell treatment. The equipment is for the production of high-efficiency cells and combines a number of processes.

centrotherm Managing Director and CEO Josef Haase told pv magazine that the company is offering modular solutions for the photovoltaic industry, allowing manufacturers to update individual machines rather than whole lines. Without wanting to go into detail, Hasse said that Chinese, Taiwanese and German manufacturers have been using centrotherm tools in this way.

Manz is also taking a modular approach to its latest tools. The company, based n Germany's south, also had a large booth at SNEC where its new wet-chemical tool was presented for the first time. Head of Product Development Wet Chemistry Kari Raudasoja told pv magazine that the new tool is largely produced at its new 100 million RMB (US$15.8 million) Shanghai facility, which was opened yesterday. The company also reported that materials for the tool are 60 percent sourced from within China, with the goal to increase that to 95 percent by the end of the year.

Both equipment suppliers reported that they are confident in the photovoltaic market despite the challenging environment at present. Manz confirmed that it is drawing on profits from other parts of its equipment business to allow for continued investment ino photovoltaics. Manz claims that its new wet-chemical tool can handle up to 4,800 wafers per hour, which is 30 percent higher than current standards.

Module manufacturers were also present in good numbers at SNEC. Tier-two manufacturer Talesun had a huge booth and indicated that it remains optimistic about the photovoltaic business. CEO Arthur Chien told pv magazine that he sees shrinking feed-in tariffs as an opportunity, "for the industry to offer the right solutions for competitive PV." Talesun also revealed that it is working on a pilot project with a leading electronics company in Germany, to supply a photovoltaic, storage and self-consumption system for an entire neighborhood. Chien was reluctant to reveal the project’s location until it is launched in August.

The African market is also one in which Talesun is expanding into, and Chien confirmed that the company is working on new self-consumption and PPA-based integrated solutions in Mali and South Africa. He added that storage is also becoming increasingly important for the Chinese domestic market.

While there were reports the SNEC is better-organized than in previous years, some attendees tweeted their dissatisfaction with some aspects. @chenyman observed: "Note to organizers-lack of row/booth number banners/signage in expo halls not indicative of supposed world class event." SNEC continues through to Friday 18.

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