September 02, 2011 10:05 ET

SBI Energy: Poor PV Demand Exposes Vulnerabilities in Thin Film Solar Equipment Industry

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Sep 2, 2011) - An ambitious developer of down-the-line thin film PV deposition equipment during the three previous years, Veeco Instruments unceremoniously dropped its CIGS business in July 2011. With an LED equipment business segment whose sales skyrocketed in 2010, Veeco made an easy decision to cut its losses in thin film solar equipment. The effects of cuts to European PV feed-in tariff (FiT) programs have trickled down to PV manufacturers who are now sitting on unsold cell and module inventories and are cancelling and postponing equipment orders for their production lines. With diminished prospects for sales in the next two years, thin film solar manufacturing equipment companies like Veeco have responded in different ways.

Veeco chose to transfer its assets and key personnel associated with copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) PV manufacturing to the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), a participant in the Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (PVMC). While revealing the continuing improvements needed to commercialize cost-competitive CIGS PV, Veeco's move validates industry perceptions regarding the technology's long-term market potential. Various companies remain invested in thin film technology and are positioned to continue nascent market operations. Companies such as Roth & Rau (now under Meyer Burger), Oerlikon, Centrotherm Photovoltaics and Apollo Solar Energy Technology continue to find interested buyers in a promising Asian PV market. In the case of Roth & Rau, production technology and assets for cadmium telluride (CdTe) are being sold to a Chinese company.

According to "Thin Film Solar PV Manufacturing Equipment Worldwide," from SBI Energy, total global spending on thin film PV manufacturing equipment will fall by 28% from 2010 to the end of 2012. Globally, spending on thin film PV manufacturing equipment already fell 9% in 2010 (excluding orders from one Japanese thin film mega-factory). Falling PV prices have ravaged U.S. PV producers such as Evergreen Solar and SunPower Corporation, and the immediate prospects of thin film PV producers pushing for immediate commercialization without mature technology. Consequently, flat growth in 2011 and pitfalls beyond are expected for thin film PV manufacturing equipment sales in the United States. Similar problems afflict the European market for thin film PV equipment, with equipment suppliers increasingly dependent upon orders from China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan.

Restructuring and impending consolidation in the PV industry prefigures an upturn for the thin film PV equipment industry and the global PV market in general. While European PV markets have recently proven stagnant under greater economic stresses, the Chinese government recently introduced its first major FiT program expected to significantly spur demand in a potentially pivotal national market. The U.S. PV market has also recently seen gains in terms of installations. Consistent with these and other recent developments, SBI Energy sees short-term market potential through 2013 for continued thin film equipment sales to the Asian market and long-term potential (past 2015) for the development of a greater thin film PV industry in the United States.

About SBI Energy
SBI Energy, a division of, publishes research reports in the industrial, energy, building/construction, and automotive/transportation markets. SBI Energy also offers a full range of custom research services. To learn more, visit

Contact Information