Out of the over 38.2 gigawatts (GW) of production capacity added to the global solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing industry during the past five years, nearly 20% or 7.5 GW of the capacity was for the production of thin film solar photovoltaic (TFPV) technologies.
Thin film PV technologies are produced through deposition processes and production line equipment distinct from conventional, market leading crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar PV technologies. Thin film PV technologies use "thin" vapor deposited or physically applied semiconductor active layers that use substantially less of alternative materials. Other PV technologies using TFPV manufacturing equipment and similar production processes include multijunction / III-V elemental compound solar cells, dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSC), and organic PV (OPV).
The crystalline silicon PV supply chain - silicon feedstocks, ingots, wafers, cells and modules - is the primary beneficiary of global industry investment. The global production capacity for c-Si PV cells is over four times that for all TFPV technologies. The current global market share for c-Si PV modules is above 80% with the remaining share largely represented by CdTe TFPV module production.
First Solar`s expansion in the production of CdTe TFPV modules and a rising bubble in investment in thin film silicon PV technologies led phenomenal growth in the market for TFPV manufacturing equipment. While the commanding global market share has not been lost by c-Si PV, it has been pressured by c-Si PV technology`s more intricate supply chain. Shortages in solar-grade silicon metal and polysilicon pushed up c-Si PV supply chain prices from silicon feedstocks to modules. New and existing PV producers responded by investing in TFPV technologies as a means of reducing material consumption (in the case of thin film silicon technologies) and eliminating dependence upon crystalline silicon supplies.
The diversity of thin film PV technologies had aided continued growth in industry capital expenditures for TFPV manufacturing equipment. Thin film PV technologies will continue to capture shares of global PV industry investment based upon their individual strengths in production and performance: CIGS PV has the highest demonstrated efficiency for major thin film technologies, CdTe is an established low-cost PV product, and thin film silicon PV technologies are well represented by OEM suppliers in terms of turnkey production lines and a broad base of industry experience in production.
Supported by persistent industry interest in the production advantages and design flexibility of thin film PV technologies, thin film solar PV manufacturing equipment will continue to represent a diverse range of high-growth capital equipment markets. From a total market value of $384 million in 2006, the global TFPV manufacturing equipment market is estimated by SBI Energy to have reached $3.2 billion in 2010 for a CAGR of 70.3%.
The total market is projected to reach approximately $4.3 billion in 2015 and $15.7 billion in 2020 on the basis of continuing advances in TFPV manufacturing and improved cost-competitiveness with c-Si PV production. Asian countries are expected to predominate among many of the TFPV technology and equipment type market categories, particularly China, Taiwan, and several Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Vietnam. Equipment markets already exist and are projected as well in Japan, India, and Korea. Other notable markets include the United States, Germany, Spain and Italy, with promising expansion markets in the Americas and Europe projected in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Russia, and several Eastern European countries.