Global suppliers of solar manufacturing equipment have been hoist by their own petard according to figures released by research company NPD SolarBuzz, which is predicting equipment spending will fall again this year to a level not seen since 2006.
SolarBuzz, in its PV Equipment Quarterly, says spending fell from its 2011 peak of US$12.9 billion to $3.6bn last year and will sink further to around $2.2bn in 2013.
Finlay Colville, VP of NPD Solarbuzz, says excessive investment by equipment suppliers in 2010 and 2011 contributed to the current global oversupply of photovoltaic cells and modules and the related price erosion which has forced many purchasers of solar manufacturing equipment to the wall.
"The days of photovoltaic-specific backlogs and revenues at the billion-dollar level are unlikely to be repeated for at least three years," said Colville.
Based on 2012 photovoltaic revenues, Solarbuzz is predicting GT Advanced Technologies, Meyer Burger, Applied Materials and Apollo Solar will be the leading equipment suppliers with photovoltaic-specific revenues above $400 million for 2012.
Only eight photovoltaic equipment suppliers are forecast to have 2012 photovoltaic-specific revenues above $100 million, compared to 23 in 2011.
The figures signal an end to capacity investment, efficiency upgrades or technology upgrades among equipment suppliers for the forseable future and with fears a secondary equipment manufacturing market could emerge in China and Taiwan, it could spell a bleak year for the companies right at the head of the photovoltaic supply chain.