Germany: Slump in PV equipment sales

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The PV equipment industry has been suffering from an overcapacity situation that started in 2011. The situation became even worse for the industry in Germany last year with sales of German photovoltaic equipment falling by half in Q2 2012.

German upstream manufacturers are still maintaining their market share though. With a 55% global share, there is room for expansion, as VDMA states. "German PV manufacturers and technology suppliers continue to benefit from being innovative, solution oriented and close to their customers. When it comes to competitive capacities as well as to replacement and upgrade of existing production capacities, top performers choose "Made in Germany" relying on competitive cost structures and top quality," says Florian Wessendorf, Managing Director of VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment.

A strong presence in Asia has also benefitted German PV suppliers. 70% of total turnovers were achieved in the Far East. Taiwan and China remain the most important markets for PV equipment sales despite the total sales falling in Asia. This was also mentioned in the "4Q’12 Worldwide Photovoltaic Equipment Market Statistics Report".

The U.S. market was the only one to grow for German equipment suppliers. Turnovers increased by almost more than 30% in 2012 compared to 2011.

Segment breakdown

The export ratio was 85% in 2012. This has been constant over the last few years. The cell equipment segment has been dominant with a turnover share of 65%. Crystalline back end module production equipment amounted to almost 9% in 2012, while plants for polysilicon, ingot and wafer production made up almost 7% of the turnover. The thin film segment held 18% and also had the lowest decrease compared to the other segments.

The incoming orders were at a constant low at the end of last year. In fact 2012 incoming orders fell by another 26% compared to the low of 2011. For the first time ever, VDMA reports, less than 50% of the orders could be acquired in Asia.

Trade conflict impact

The trade conflicts have also had an impact on the state of affairs. "In addition to market turbulences we have to cope with continuing trade conflicts in the solar sector. We clearly feel the uncertainty which this development means for our clients. The willingness to invest in newest machinery and production technology in order to thus maintain their own competitiveness has considerably decreased," explains Dr. Peter Fath, CEO of RCT Solutions GmbH and Chairman of the Board of VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment.

German PV manufacturers are now seeking new ways to handle the changing PV industry situation. New strategies are being undertaken as well.

"Although the challenges for the industry are certainly not small ones, I am optimistic with regard to future perspectives of the PV machinery industry in Germany. When we manage to successfully apply our strengths – as there are technology leadership, closeness to our customers and a focus on the reduction of production costs – I am sure that we will be ahead of the next investment cycle again," concluded Fath.