VDMA: thin-film revives business of German PV equipment suppliers

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The market for photovoltaic production equipment is currently being driven primarily by thin-film orders. In the first two quarters of this year, the German providers generated 58% of their sales in this segment, said the German Engineering Association (Verbandes Deutsches Maschinenbau Anlagen, or VDMA). In addition, these companies have already achieved 55% of the previous year’s sales in the first half of the year. According to VDMA figures, this was mainly attributable to the second quarter, when sales were 24% higher than in the previous quarter and 35% more than in the same quarter of the previous year.

The order books of the German photovoltaic suppliers are still well filled. In the second quarter, the book-to-bill-ratio was 1. “The future expansion plans of the PV industry in Asia can be expected to continue to award contracts. The expected orders will be for thin-film technologies and highly efficient crystalline technologies, “said Peter Fath, Managing Director of RCT Solutions GmbH and Chairman of the Board of VDMA Photovoltaik Produktionsmittel.

However, due to the change in the Chinese solar energy policy announced at the end of May, a slight postponement of the planned investments in highly efficient solar cell concepts is to be expected. “However, we expect to implement the planned investments in additional production capacities in the next 12 months. In particular, the Indian Government’s program to build new production capacity should be highlighted,” Fath continued.

The export quota remains at a record high. According to the VDMA, it reached 89% in the second quarter. The core business of German engineering companies was mainly in East Asia, with 82 %of sales in the second quarter coming from this region – with 39 percent, the largest part in China. Germany remained second only to Asia, with a percentage of 11%, while Europe and America accounted for 6% and 1% of sales, respectively.

At 62%, thin film was the highest-revenue segment in the second quarter, followed by cell production equipment at 31%. “Although on the world market the production of thin-film modules, which include CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide) and CdTe (Cadmium Telluride) technology, is less than 10%, the high proportion indicates that specifically in this segment, many production solutions are sourced from Germany, “explained the association.

New orders increased 1.7-fold in the second quarter of 2018 compared to the first quarter. Most orders came from Asia with 55% and America with 31%. “The orders from Asia now show a broader diversification into various Asian countries,” said Jutta Trube, Head of VDMA Photovoltaic Production Equipment.