By John West, Managing Director, VLSI Research, Bedford, UK
The demand for equipment used to manufacture solar photovoltaic solar cells and modules has grown at an explosive rate over the past five years, and the fastest-growing segment has been for systems used to manufacture thin-film cells and modules. In 2009, demand for this type of equipment reached US$1.9 billion, up from US$0.1 billion in 2004, representing an astonishing 80% compound annual growth rate over the period. However, as with the rest of the industry, 2009 saw sales flattened and the business model change from one of rapid growth to that of sustainability. The result of this transition has been some consolidation, with several major equipment vendors strengthening their position through acquisitions. The outlook for 2010 calls for sales of thin-film production equipment to recover and continue growing at a compound annual growth rate of around 15% over the next five years (see Fig. 1).
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