German PV equipment sales continue to decline; stronger cooperation urged

Reporting from this year’s EU PVSEC in Frankfurt, the VDMA, Germany¬ís Association of Engineering, said Q2 2012 sales of German-made photovoltaic components, machines and systems fell by 50% annually. Already in Q1, the association reported falling sales of 54%.

"The photovoltaic industry is being battered by overcapacity. In the face of the extremely challenging situation, wafer, cell and module manufacturers have reduced their willingness to invest," commented Peter Fath, CTO of centrotherm photovoltaics AG and chairman of the board at VDMA photovoltaic equipment. "Demand was very weak for new equipment for crystalline backend – module production – in Q2," he added.

In particular, demand from Asia has continued to decline, with sales falling 54% in Q2 2012, compared to the same period in 2011. "This finding is not surprising," stated Florian Wessendorf, project manager of VDMA photovoltaic equipment. "In the last two years, substantial production capacity was built in Asia. We have already seen a conservative investment willingness from Asian customers in the order books over the last few quarters. This is now reflected in the sales."

Despite this, German photovoltaic equipment manufacturers still maintain a global market share of 57%. "With their "Made in Germany" label, German PV equipment manufacturers and technology suppliers remain technology leaders," added Wessendorf.

For the first time, sales for photovoltaic machine components was said to have reached 13%. However, cell equipment, which comprises 70% of sales, is still the key segment. Meanwhile, sales of polysilicon, ingot and wafer manufacturing equipment fell, as did equipment for module production.

"The order situation paints a similarly alarming picture," said the VDMA in a statement released. In Q2, just 46% of orders were acquired, compared to Q2 2011. This negative trend was again impacted by weak demand from Asian customers. New orders for this segment were said to have fallen 59% year-on-year.

Strengthened cooperation

Overall, both Fath and Wessendorf are confident of the future for Germany’s photovoltaic equipment manufacturers, despite the current bleak picture. However, in order to preserve Germany’s competitive position, they urge stronger cooperation with local industry.

"Only when we maintain a high level of innovation throughout the entire value chain and reduce costs, will German companies remain competitive. Joint sales and marketing, and purchasing processes, and the consequent development of synergies can contribute to a considerable extent," said Fath.