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Solar Production Technology
Systems manufacturers remain optimistic
Due to drastic surplus capacity, manufacturers of solar cells and modules are barely investing in new production equipment – something which is having a visible impact on the business of solar systems manufacturers. Nevertheless, companies are expecting an upturn in the market in the medium term. Until then, they are looking to other areas for support.
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Saturated for the time being:show photos
Chinese manufacturers are currently ordering hardly any machines for solar cell production. (Photo: Suntech)
Completely automatic:show photos
Thanks to rapid technical progress among solar systems manufacturers, solar cells are now seldom soldered by hand. (Photo: Centrosolar)
New old supporting pillar:show photos
Many suppliers of solar equipment have their roots in the automotive industry – and are now relying more heavily on this sector during the photovoltaics crisis. (Photo: Kuka)
Niche market:show photos
Concentrating photovoltaic technology is establishing itself as a third driving force alongside classic silicon modules and thin-film panels. The first equipment suppliers are beginning to provide manufacturers with light-trapping solar modules, even with automation solutions. (Soitec)
Jürgen Weiss is refusing to let go of his optimism. Solar crisis or not – in two to three years the photovoltaics (PV) market will pick up again, believes the head of marketing at the Nettetal-based specialist engineering firm Gerold.
"Solar module prices are decreasing rapidly, meaning that photovoltaic technology is approaching competitive levels in many parts of the world," says Weiss. It is just that this growth will no longer take place primarily in Germany, which is losing significance as a solar market due to drastic cuts in funding, but rather in the new markets such as China and India or in the USA, he adds.
Gerold produces material handling technology and processing systems for the production of crystalline and thin-film modules, including stations for the framing, edge sealing and trimming of panels. Last year, the company headquartered in the Lower Rhine region generated three quarters of its turnover through solar technology. Weiss estimates that this proportion will drop to around half this year.
The mood at Gerold mirrors the attitude of most solar systems manufacturers: They are clearly feeling the crisis, but nevertheless still consider PV an important pillar within their area of business. The lull in the number of orders has hit several suppliers hard. According to a current survey carried out by the engineering association VDMA, more than 80 per cent of equipment manufacturers are reporting a poorer state of affairs in terms of orders than a year ago. It is not just in Germany that the freefall of module prices is having an effect on the willingness of manufacturers of solar cells and modules to invest. Manufacturers in Asian countries in particular have built factories that are far too big – and are therefore not ordering any more new lines for the moment.