German PV equipment sales up 39% in first six months

Sales and order intake of PV components, machinery and equipment in Germany increased significantly in the first half of the year, according to the German Engineering Federation (VDMA).

The association’s PV division, VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment, pointed out, however, that ongoing trade disputes continue to burden the industry’s recovery.

Overall, sales of PV equipment rose 39% compared to the same period last year.

"The market for production solutions and manufacturing technologies for photovoltaics has been very dynamic in the first half of 2014," said Peter Fath, managing director of RCT Solutions GmbH and chairman of VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment.

With a global market share of more than 50%, German PV equipment suppliers defended their strong competitive position in the first six months of 2014. While Asia accounted for the most sales, business in the United States and in emerging markets in Latin America, South Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, the organization reported.

The export market share of German PV suppliers reached 91% in the first half of the year, underscoring the industry’s traditional export orientation as Germany’s photovoltaic engineering business is mainly located in Asia, which accounted for some 70% of sales in the period. China and Taiwan were the leading markets for German suppliers. In the U.S., German exports doubled while emerging markets contributed nearly 8% of sales — well above the European countries and almost on par with the domestic business. The strongest market segment for German PV equipment was cell production equipment (39%), followed closely by manufacturing solutions for thin-film photovoltaics (33%). Equipment for the crystalline backend — module production — accounted for 15% of revenue, while equipment for polysilicon, ingot and wafer manufacturing made up 13%.

Significant increase in new orders

Incoming orders increased by more than 30% compared to the same period last year. Business in Asia also dominantes the incoming orders for PV equipment, reaching a share of more than 78%. Domestic orders accounted for nearly 10%, while fellow European countries only contributed 4%. The U.S. made up the remaining 8%.

"In view of the rapidly developing PV installation market and the good capacity utilization of leading photovoltaic manufacturers, photovoltaic equipment suppliers expect an increased investment in modern machinery and technology," said Florian Wessendorf, managing director of VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment. "However, the ongoing trade disputes between the United States and China/Taiwan threaten to slow the current dynamics."

The Federation added that the expansion of U.S. duties on solar products from Taiwan and the July announcement that it was tightening duties on Chinese and Taiwanese solar products (cells and modules) have led to Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers reconsidering and postponing further expansion plans at the moment.

With an order backlog of five months in the second quarter of 2014, PV equipment companies were only slightly weaker compared to the total mechanical engineering sector, which had a backlog of 5.7 months. "Even though we still have to master one or the other challenge, I am convinced that the German photovoltaic equipment companies are on the right path," said Fath. "The industry has done their homework to the greatest possible extent."

Currently, approximately 100 VDMA member companies are active in the PV sector.