Global solar PV market breathes fire after initial ‘feedstock’ choke

Palo Alto, CA, June 26, 2006 — Solar photovoltaic industries are slowly overcoming inhibitions to become a viable alternative as distribution generation systems. Market penetration and acceptability is expected with new improved, modular, affordable, adaptive and aesthetically acceptable systems in place, says consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

Frost & Sullivan finds that the global solar photovoltaic (PV) market earned revenues of $6.49 billion in 2005 and estimates this to reach $16.43 billion in 2012.

New Ribbon type technology that reduces process waste and consumes less of the wafer material has slowly but surely over the last two years effected the continuation of production to match demand. Further, new breakthroughs in conversion efficiency of thin film technologies of 13.5 percent will in effect bring in a reduction of silicon consumed per square meter of installation for the same output power, said Frost & Sullivan.

“Silicon feedstock supply constraints growth in the solar photovoltaic industry,” noted Frost & Sullivan industry analyst Pramodh Panchanadam. “Only by increasing production capacity and use of new technologies in both manufacturing and production processes will the effects of this constraint be mitigated.”

However, the market is still largely dependent on government support and political will. With the political mood swinging towards lowering of imports in solar products to the market especially in Europe, a strong fear psychosis has griped the market that demand may not be met.

“The industry, to sustain growth, will need to look in to what it can do to pull away from a subsidy supported to market driven entity,” explained Panchanadam. “For this, it will need to entrench on market fundamentals such as restructuring its supply chain, distribution network and marketing structure.”

Solar cell and module manufacturers in addressing feedstock supply issues go for extended supply contracts as a strategic step to secure their raw material requirements. However, beyond 2009, when most of the contracts expire, companies will have to rethink on being niche manufacturers or vertically integrated to better control their supply chain, said Frost & Sullivan. In addition, innovative strategies such as having joint ventures with regional Asian players to reduce manufacturing costs will also play a major factor in deciding market share in the future.

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