SEMI, USA recently hosted the seminar on ‘Convergence of PV Materials, Test and Reliability: What Really Matters?
Reliability in growing PV industry
Speaking on the importance of reliability to a growing PV industry, Sarah Kurtz, principal scientist, Reliability group manager, NREL, said that confidence in long-term performance is a necessity in the PV industry. Current failure rates are low. There is need to demonstrate confidence so that failure rates will stay low. There has been exponential growth of the PV industry so far. PV is a significant fraction of new installations. It now represents a significant fraction of new electricity generating installations of all kinds.
How does one predict the lifetime of PV modules? There has been a qualification test evolution for JPL block buys. Most studies of c-Si modules show module failures are small. Internal electrical current issues often dominate.
The vast majority of installations show very low PV module failure rates (often less than 0.1 percent). There has been evidence that PV is low risk compared to other investments. To sustain the current installation rate, we need to demonstrate confidence that justifies the annual investment of $100 million or so.
Critical factors in economic viability of PV
DuPont has broad capabilities under one roof. It offers materials, solar cell design, and processes integrated with panel engineering. Speaking about Critical factors in economic viability of PV – materials matter – Conrad Burke, global marketing director, DuPont PV Solutions, said that material suppliers have a distinct advantage to view trends. The industry can expect consolidation among large PV module producers and large materials suppliers.
There is an increasing dependence on materials suppliers for processes, tech support and roadmap. There is renewed attention to long-term reliability and quality of materials in PV products.
There is a race for survival among panel producers. There are dropping prices for solar panels, and quality is getting compromised. There are reduced incentives in established markets. The market will continue to grow. Key factors that determine investment return for PV include lifetime, efficiency and cost.
When materials fail, the consequences are dire. There are failures such as encapsulant discoloration, backsheet failure, glass delamination, etc. Average defect rates in new-build modules has been increasing. Significant number of PV installations do not deliver the projected RoI. The system lifetime is as important as cost and incentives.
Solar cell power continues to improve. There have been improvements from metal pastes and processes. Performance loss impacts the RoI. The US Department of Energy hired JPL to develop 30-year PV modules. Recent cost pressures have led to the dramatic changes in module materials and a lack of transparency.
Analyzing modules from the recent service environments show performance issues. Certification does not mitigate risk. Tests do not predict the actual field performance. He showed tier-1 solar panel manufacturing problems from China, Japan and the USA. Backsheet is critical to protect solar panels. Few materials have lengthy field experience. We will continue to see drop in prices for solar panels and opening of new markets. Focus for PV module makers will remain efficiency, etc.
Finlay Colville, vice president, NPD Solarbuzz, USA, recently presented the 10 key trends for the PV industry. According to him, the 10 key trends are:
1. PV demand growth. The industry has been characterized by strong growth rates of 25 percent to >100 percent Y/Y for the past decade. Now, the industry needs to plan for growth at more modest levels.
2. Globalization of PV demand. The emerging regions emerged for PV demand in 2012.
3. China end-market demand in 2013. China is forecast to account for approximately 25 percent global demand in 2013. The emerging demand is confined to a select group of countries across the three emerging regions.
4. Capacity imbalance reset. The nameplate capacity levels at the 60-GW level are often cited. However, the the PV industry currently has an ‘effective’ capacity of 41-42 GW. Therefore, demand needs to exceed 40 GW for proper reset.
5. Competitive shakeout. The top-10 module suppliers by MW for 2012 only comprised 50 percent of the year shipments. Also, a similar pattern is seen for c-Si cell production. We can expect another two years of shakeout on the supply side.
6. Cost and price rationalization. Every segment of the supply side is subject to price/cost pressure: from poly to BoS supply. Even reducing the silicon/nonsilicon costs of modules to 53c/W level by the end of 2013 may still result in negative gross margins.
7. Supply and demand rationalization. The poly suppliers have been operating at reduced utilization since 2H’12.
8. Evolution of PV technology roadmaps. Strong marketshare gains from standard c-Si multi ingot/wafers. The end-markets are driving module efficiencies and power ratings. The alternative growth methods have not gained traction and are being phased out.
9. Capital expenditure cyclic patterns. The PV process equipment suppliers have been impacted severely by overcapacity and overinvestments of 2010 and 2011. There is a strong chance that 2014 will end up as low as 2013. Also, technology-buy cycles don’t exist as yet in the PV industry.
10. Domestic protectionism counter measures. The effects of trade wars may yet have a profound effect on the PV industry into 2014. There will be direct effect of global overinvestment into domestic manufacturing. The other countries have an impact, but China and Europe decisions are key.
In summary, the PV industry is a 30-GW end-market today, and is forecast to grow to the 40-GW level in 2015. Europe demand is declining, but greater number of countries/territories expected to provide new PV demand. Demand in China during 2013 is essential for local suppliers.
The PV industry is capable of producing 12-15 GW per quarter. Supply and demand need a 40-GW+ market to balance. The shakeout phase is proceeding slowly, and will continue for the next two years. Reducing costs are not yet keeping up with price declines. ASP and ISP stabilization period is needed badly.
The end-market demand has become dependent on low ISPs. Also, multi c-Si based modules are dominating the industry. PV equipment suppliers are unlikely to see meaningful new order intake until 2014 or beyond. Finally, trade wars and domestic protectionism measures are crucially dependent on the EU and China decisions in 2013.
Last week, I was very fortunate enough to be able to get into a conversation with Dr. Robert N. Castellano, president of The Information Network, based in New Tripoli, USA. It all started with a column, which he writes regularly in “The Street.” One of the recent colums of Dr. Castellano touched upon –- What could make solar hot again?
How to rectify the solar cell oversupply?
He said: “The problem will rectify itself when demand catches up with supply, which will take several years. Until then, suppliers are faced with lower prices and margins. I was the first to point out on March 5 2008, in my blog on Seeking Alpha in an article entitled “Contradictions in the Solar Industry” that “The solar industry is faced with a huge oversupply of solar panels planned for production in 2008, but no one seems to notice… or care. Shares in many solar companies such as Evergreen Solar), First Solar SunPower, and Suntech Power have surged with the booming solar market.”
Six reasons for cloudy solar skies
1. With oil at $60 a barrel, who cares about alternative energy? It is a short sighted view, but with the credit market crunch, who can get a loan to build solar plants anyway?”
Have companies been overlooking inventory problems?
Dr. Castellano said: “The solar companies were benefiting from the low price of polysilicon as a result of excess inventory in that sector. They were renegotiating contract prices with the poly suppliers and dropping prices. With money in place, they continued to build capacity well into 2009. All the factors discussed above took everyone by surprise (witness the stock market crash) and the recession has lasted much longer than initially forecast.
Where does this place a-Si solar cell makers?
“The issue is the economics in a solar farm where they are installed. The installation price is the same as a polycrystalline panel. Since the efficiency is lower and it takes more panels to reach the same wattage as polycrystalline, it also takes more hook-ups and frames during installation.
“If the panels move, there is another factor in the motors to move them. However, the production cost is lower than the polycrystalline panels. Oerlikon, expects its lines will deliver a cost of 70 cents per watt by the end of 2010 and has achieved an initial conversion efficiency of 11 percent, which comes out to about 9.5 percent of stabilized efficiency.”
Crystalline vs. thin film capacity
Dr. Castellano said: “Until last year, Germany had been the world’s largest solar market thanks to its feed-in tariffs, which require utilities to buy all the solar energy produced at premium, government-set prices. As a result, analysts now expect Germany, which doesn’t have an annual cap like the one in Spain, to become the biggest market again in 2009.Germany installed 1.35 gigawatts of solar energy systems in 2008, and it could add another 1.5 gigawatts in 2009.
“Spain took the lead last year, but the government has since reduced the subsidies and capped the amount of energy that could be sold under the subsidy program. The financial market crisis has made it difficult for developers to line up financing for solar power projects. Spain, which added a few gigawatts of solar in 2008 alone, now has a 500-megawatt cap for 2009. All of these forces have led to an oversupply of silicon panels.
“As governments — Germany and Spain were a driving force – in the solar industry’s run-up, they were a factor in the downturn. Once the recession is over and liquidity returns, they will mitigate the overcapacity, particularly as prices are so low and there is pent-up demand for new installations.”
Impact of Q4 on overall prices and industry
Dr. Castellano said that silicon used to sell for more than $300 per kilogram on the spot market and $150 per kilogram for long-term contracts a few years ago. Silicon prices have since fallen significantly over the past year. In fact, the long-term contract price has dropped about 50 percent, close to the spot market price of $67 per kilogram, or about $0.50 per watt.
“Polysilicon panels are selling at $2.25 to $2.50 per watt from $4.17 in Q2 2008. We expect prices to decline further throughout the remainder of the year,” he noted.
B.V. Naidu, Group Chief Executive Officer, Genexx Enpower Corp. Pvt. Ltd, and currently Vice chairman Of Matrix Enport and Group CEO, VANPIC Projects, recently took over as the chairman of the India Semiconductor Association (ISA). He brings over 23 years of experience in developing the IT industry across India as part of the Department of Information Technology/Software Technology Parks of India (STPI).
Naidu’s tenure at ISA’s helm should turn out to be a very interesting one, given that India now has a new Union Government and Union Cabinet in place, and the latest Union Budget is likely to be announced soon. In this interview, Naidu also talks about the industry’s expectations from the Central Government, on the fabs vs. fabless debate, and on the need for building a system for incubating Indian start-ups, respectively.
A very interesting development would be the ISA’s proposal of the India Semiconductor Vision 2020 Document for the country. When this document is tabled, it should interest those countries, and companies, looking to invest in India — as the document would lay out all of the clear, long term goals for the Indian semiconductor industry. Exciting times seem to be ahead for the Indian semiconductor industry. Excerpts:
Main goal for ISA
Naidu said that the ISA needs to get adopted to the changing dynamics in the industry with the increasing domestic market. It is necessary for India to enhance the product design capabilities — which are made in India for India. In view of this, the ISA is enhancing its scope to cover the embedded software and systems companies.
“As a result of the new semiconductor policy, there has been spurt of the growth of the solar PV industry in the country. ISA has spearheaded the semicon policy, ISA is also covering the solar PV industry. Thereby, ISA is spreading its reach to cover the embedded software, electronic products as well as photovoltaic sectors,” he said.
Top five points on ISA’s agenda
BV Naidu: According to ISA, these should be:
i. ISA would work along with industry, academia and the Government, and formulate the strategy for the growth of fabulous design companies, product design companies, ecosystem companies and solar PV companies.
ii. ISA would also propose the India Semiconductor Vision 2020 Document for the country.
iii. ISA would enhance its activities focusing on increased product desired companies.
iv. ISA will put up a plan for working along with entrepreneurs, mentors, venture capitalists and academic institutions to enhance entrepreneurship and IP creation.
v. ISA will work with the Union Government to enhance the growth of the solar PV sector, its visibility and Government incentives to make this industry viable for growth in India.
Building semiconductor ecosystem in India
BV Naidu said that the ISA is taking several steps. These are:
ISA will strive to enhance the strategic value to its member companies — semicon, systems and solar — by creating balanced eco system around the its stakeholders — industry, government and academia.
ISA should be accepted as a tier 1 industry body and think tank/advisory body for influencing policy for the Central and State governments. ISA would also encourage an entrepreneurship ecosystem focus in innovation and design. As for talent, ISA will aim for 100 PhD enrollments in research in medical and energy over the next five years.
With regard to what ISA would be doing in the coming year and in the current economic scenario, it would include the following:
For the government:
* Aim to remove anomalies in duty structure for semicon companies (Mo Fin/Com).
* Grow further fabless design companies in India (DIT).
* Roadmap for electronic manufacturing in India (NMCC).
* Take forward recommendations of SPV report (MNRE).
* Take forward the Semicon Policy implementation.
* Strengthen ties with state governments.
* Create platforms for mentoring & funding interaction with VCs.
* Make the ISA website a resource centre on the Indian semicon industry.
Market facing activities:
* Increase domestic market.
* Made in India for India.
* Increase competitiveness of product design, mfg & market reach.
* Position India as solar PV hub.
* Publish market sales data on a quarterly basis.
* Aim for at least 20 PhD enrollments in research in medical and energy over the next 12 months.
Education and research perspectives
BV Naidu added that the participation of education and research would be as follows:
* Aim for 100 PhD enrollments in research in medical and energy over the next five years.
* Close working partnership between ISA and VSI to drive research agenda.
* Strong existing commitment to this agenda from VSI through corpus.
* Need each ISA member to sponsor at least one full time PhD student each year over the next five years.
* Commitment to be financial (Rs 25,000 pm), mentoring and test chips.
* Sponsorship amount will also cover international paper presentation, faculty support, kits, etc.
* ISA will work with DST to potentially match the aid from industry.
* VSI will work with universities and sponsoring companies to identify and mentor the scholars.
* All fundamental IP from the research will be available to the pool of sponsoring companies.
ISA’s goal is to drive the fundamental pre-competitive semiconductor research in medical and energy in India.
Boosting semicon manufacturing
According to BV Naidu: India’s chip manufacturing has been restricted to captive centers for defense and aerospace to date. The announcement of the semiconductor policy 2007 is likely to see the opening of doors to global investors in both chip manufacturing and its ecosystem, and related hi-tech manufacturing.
The Government of India has announced a national semiconductor policy. It seeks to establish India as an attractive destination for global investors. The policy has financial subsidies and it is necessary that due diligence takes place before these benefits are sanctioned. The appointment of the Appraisal Committee and the setting up of guidelines to evaluate investments are the key for the long-term effectiveness of the policy and to build the sector.
The solar photovoltaic industry has received a real boost with the introduction of this policy and given India an opportunity to be a global player. It has also opened up opportunities for investments and employment.
Given the current economic climate, it would not be an uncommon request if the semicon policy is extended from 2010 to at least 2014/2015!
“ISA, particularly, will work along with the Government of India and various state governments to create manufacturing clusters around the country. The ISA also conducts the Excite exhibition to bring all the ecosystem players who could bring the manufacturing industry together,” he added.
Fabs vs. fabless
Fabs vs. fabless has been an interesting debate. What should be the way forward for the Indian industry?
BV Naidu said: “Currently, the Indian semiconductor companies mainly focus on IC design services comprising VLSI design, board design and embedded software and are mostly in services, with a small number of product companies. There is also some amount of board level fabrication and testing activity.
“India has the potential to become a global design centre and a leader in product design, development, testing, fabrication and distribution. As a strategy, one should focus initially on product design, development, assembly and test, while leveraging wafer fabrication capability from the most competitive sources in the region.”
We haven’t seen many start-ups in the recent past. How can the India industry go about trying to build a system for incubating Indian start-ups?
BV Naidu: It would be appropriate if the Government of India could provide seed and start-up capital for the new ventures and set up a focused venture fund of about Rs 200 crores. The technology development board could administer these funds and the fund may provide up to 80% of the approved project cost with equity balance being brought in by entrepreneur.
The Government can also subsidize the acquisition of EDA tools by start-ups and other SMEs in this sector.
Prototype development centers with adequate fabrication facilities can be set up as well. These centers can be managed by industry associations. Recurring costs could be met by charging user fees. ISA can be given a grant for this purpose.
The above steps will encourage entrepreneurship eco-system focus in innovation and design.
Finally, what are the industry’s expectations from the new Central government?
BV Naidu said that the key areas of focus include the following:
a) Semiconductor manufacturing
i. Extension of Semicon Policy
b) Semiconductor design
i. STPI extension
ii. Transfer Pricing
c) Solar PV
i. Duty structure (point no. 3 under chapter VII on Solar PV in our pre-budget memo).
We have also made the following requests with the Government of India:
* Significance of semiconductor industry – need to accord it National Agenda status.
* Government of India Semiconductor Policy 2007 – suggested amendments.
* Domestic electronics hardware manufacturing – proposals to enhance its competitiveness.
* Fabless design companies – recommendations for growth.
* Semiconductor related research – a focus area.
* Other key proposals
* Solar PV manufacturing – Recommendations to promote domestic industry.
Solar/photovoltaics (PV) holds tremendous potential and promise for India, a fact not hidden from anyone. To further highlight its importance, SEMI India unveiled its first paper on Solar PV in India yesterday afternoon.
More action from Indian government needed
The meet called for more action from the government of India, a more closer industry-government collaboration, as well as the need for financial institutions to pay more attention to the solar/PV segment in India.
The photo here shows from left to right: Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, President, Applied Materials India; Dr. J. Gururaja, Renewable Energy Action Forum & Executive President, SEMI India; K. Subramanya, CEO, Tata BP Solar; and Sathya Prasad, president, SEMI India.
Touching on the rationale for this SEMI paper on solar/PV’s landscape in India, Dr. J. Gururaja, Renewable Energy Action Forum and Executive President, SEMI India, said it was meant to project the solar/PV industry’s perspective: where we are and what needs to be done! This is a first account report and will be followed by many other such reports.
He said: “Solar in general, and PV in particular, can address the challenges that we face today. Solar/PV has a special attraction. It converts solar to electricity without involving any moving parts.”
He added that although the industry has been looking at the potential, the markets have not been expanding as expected. “We need to see what can be done and achieved. This report is a stock-taking exercise,” he pointed out.
Case for solar/PV in India
Sathya Prasad, president of SEMI India, touched upon the case for PV in India. These include:
* The existing power deficit situation in many parts of the country.
* India’s brisk economic growth implies rising energy needs.
* Overdependence on coal for electricity generation — limited coal reserves and CO2 emissions.
* Overdependence on oil and natural gas imports — it accounts for 7 percent of GDP and consequent energy security concerns.
According to him, India is abundantly endowed with solar radiation. So far, so good!
Key PV opportunities for India
According to SEMI’s paper, the key PV opportunities for India lie in off-grid applications and grid-connected PV. The off-grid applications include:
* Basic lighting and electrification of rural homes.
* Irrigation pump sets.
* Power back-up for cellular base station towers — approximately, there will be 2.9 lakh base station towers by the end of 2009.
* Urban applications — such as street lighting, etc.
The opportunities in grid-connected PV exist in:
* The current grid connected PV generation capacity is very small.
* Existing power deficit and huge projected future need.
* The cost point of PV has been declining continuously with technology improvements and scale.
Benefits of PV in India
The benefits of PV in India extend well beyond addressing energy needs. For instance, renewable energy technologies create more jobs than any fossil fuel based technologies. It also creates jobs across the value chain — from R&D to manufacturing, installation and maintenance. Sathya Prasad highlighted MNRE’s point that about 100,000 jobs could be created out of PV.
PV also has the capability of transforming lives. About 450 million Indians today manage with kerosene/other fuels for very basic lighting despite its significant health and safety risks. In this context, special mention needs to be made of the Aryavarta Grameen Bank’s home electrification program.
Challenges for PV in India
Evidently, a bunch of opportunities are awaiting India in the solar/PV space. However, several challenges need to be overcome as well. These would be:
* Need for closer industry-government co-operation.
* Need for standards.
* Need for collaborative, goals driven R&D.
* Training and human resources development
* Need for financing infrastructure and models.
So, what are the recommendations of this paper on solar/PV landscape in India, and further call to action? These are:
* Need to evolve a common government-industry vision to make India a world leader in PV.
* Develop financing infrastructure and models that will motivate large-scale PV adoption and investments.
* Expand development of PV in off-grid applications.
* Accelerate grid-connected PV generation on a large scale.
Call for low carbon growth strategy
“Low carbon growth path is universal now. To make that happen, there needs to be a political will,” advised K. Subramanya, CEO, Tata BP Solar, and chairman SEMI India PV Advisory Committee, while presenting his perspective on the solar/PV industry in India.
There has been little action on part of the government of India. “This needs to be implemented on the ground. We need policy and lifestyle innovation,” he added. Subramanya cautioned that, “Too much of analysis will result in paralysis.” According to him, separate budgets are required for a low carbon growth strategy. “Solar has tremendous potential. Even its learning curve is brilliant,” Subramanya noted.
He added that if the European Union (EU) can make a low carbon journey so smoothly, then why not India? For instance, in Karnataka state alone, the demand is said to be 6700MW and a 10-11 percent peak shortage. We have 20-odd lakh Bhagya Jyoti and Kutir Jyoti units, and around 7,870-odd street lights. If a majority of these can be replaced by solar, it could lead to tremendous savings! This could be at least 57MW for a state like Karnataka. Apparently, all of this would require an investment of Rs. 52 crores and a payback time of two years.
“Why can’t we develop a low-carbon growth path for every state in India? Imagine, what it can do for the other states,” Subramanya highlighted. “If the power sector does not do well, it will hit the country’s GDP!” Quite rightly so!!
Subramanya cited another example of solar water heaters in Karnataka. There are 32 lakh homes, of which about 5 lakh homes have solar water heaters. If more houses were to adopt these, it would result in a saving of 4,000MW of electricity! The Tata BP Solar CEO also called upon financial institutions to have a closer look at solar. Even the tariffs structure for solar/PV in India is not favorable enough.
He also touched upon US President Barack Obama’s energy plan and the actions taken, since his coming to power, and drew a parallel with India’s national action plan, which includes a solar mssion. This was released last June, but hardly any action has happened on the ground. So, there needs be changes on this front as well.
Four key aspects for solar/PV in India
Dr. Madhusudan V. Atre, president, Applied Materials India and vice chairman SEMI India PV Advisory Committee, highlighted four major aspects while presenting his perspective on the solar/PV industry. These are:
* See the advantage SEMI India brings to India. It can help bring costs down, due to the involvement of the PV Group.
* A point Dr. Atre had highlighted to me about a year back — that solar/PV is a great way to trigger manufacturing in India. He said that the solar/PV ecosystem will be a very important step in setting up a semiconductor manufacturing ecosystem in the country.
* What wireless did to telecom — perhaps, solar/PV has a similar aim! It can get rid of transmission lines and actually take power to the people!
* The Indian government-academia-industry would need to work hand-in-hand.
“Let’s start from the very beginning! A very good place to start!!”
Hope you all remember this lovely song sung by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music!! So, what’s the connection?
Right! Last week, I blogged about how the global semiconductor industry is likely to drop by 28 percent in 2009, while the Indian industry should grow by 13.4 percent during the same period, and that, we should not get carried away by these statistics!
A moment to ponder: isn’t this drop of 28 percent too high for the global semicon industry? Or, is the situation really that bad? So, let’s start from the very beginning, and go straight to the source — Malcolm Penn!
Revival likely by 2010?
Here’s what Malcolm Penn, CEO and founder of Future Horizons, had to say: “Fraid not! It could even be lower, but remember that this is a year on year number. It is based on the following assumptions: Q4-08 down 22.5 percent vs. Q3-08; Q1-09 down 20 percent vs Q4-08; Q2 down 2 percent vs Q1; and Q3 up 12 percent vs Q2, and Q4 up 3 percent vs Q3! And, if this pattern runs true, 2010 will be up 28 percent vs 2009!”
Voila! The global semiconductor industry could well be in for a major revival next year itself! Why, even Bill McClean, president of IC Insights, took a more optimistic look at the state of the industry in light of the current global economic situation at the recently concluded SEMI ISS 2009 conference!!
Continues Penn, “The actual Q4 results (released this Sunday) were down 24.2 percent, slightly worse than our estimate.”
How to get the buzz back in semicon?
It has been said that the current situation the global semiconductor industry finds itself in was fueled by greed and short-term business goals. So, who were the culprits? Weren’t they warned earlier?
Adds Penn: “It was more complex that that! The woeful state-of-the-world economy was a consequence of debt, greed and irresponsibility; political self interests and short-term business goals, aided and abetted by compliant governments; ineffective regulators; imprudent institutions; incompetent management; irrational self delusion and vested self-interests! No one is blameless for this crisis! Concerns were raised, but the human nature is often irrational, and the ‘easy option’ always the one of choice.”
So true! Perhaps, the ‘easy option’ factor seems to be affecting the Indian semiconductor industry as well, but more of that later!
The key issue today is: what needs to be done to get the buzz back in the global semiconductor industry? The answer probably lies in the following: in the short-term, it involves rebuilding the industry confidence, and in longer term, it involves a radical return to ‘old fashioned’ business and political values.
On another note, I was curious to know how the EDA segment is doing? Penn said, “No better, no worse than normal, technology marches on, new designs accelerate in a downturn.”
Memory is another segment that’s been hit hard. In fact, the other day, someone asked me why Qimonda’s story was so important!
Another could not understand what Spansion really did, and why it had announced this January 15 that the company was exploring strategic alternatives for a sale or a merger! Doesn’t matter! Memory is a very tricky business, and semiconductors is the mother of all such tricky businesses! Perhaps, isn’t that why they once said in jest: “Real men have fabs!” Anyhow!
Coming back to memory, when can the industry expect some recovery in NAND? More importantly, will the various government interventions help? Qimonda also recently petitioned for the opening of the insolvency proceedings.
Penn is clear: “NAND will recover when the excess capacity abates, and that will take several more quarters. The government intervention won’t help, rather the opposite, and it will exacerbate the excess capacity issue.”
Fab spends to move up only by Q1-2010
Earlier, Penn predicted a recovery in 2010 with the resumption of growth in Q3 2009. What will make this happen? He says, “A recovering world GDP growth, plus a return in business confidence.”
However, those keen on fabs, do not expect the fab spends to look up any time soon! In fact, Penn estimates fab spends to start moving north not until Q1-2010 at the earliest.
The Chinese impact!
Interestingly, China is set to see negative growth of 5.8 percent during 2009. It will be worth noting how much of this this impact the global semiconductor industry.
Point one, compared to a global semicon fall of 28 percent in 2009, Penn considers a fall in China’s semicon fortunes of 5.8 percent to be ‘darned sight better!’ So, China should still be a high growth market (relatively speaking).
Like I mentioned earlier, the Indian semiconductor industry is perhaps getting affected by the ‘easy option.’ Design services continue to do well, hopefully, but when it comes to real semiconductor product companies, those are far and few.
And, I haven’t seen any real activity in the recent past that could tell me more such initiatives are in the pipeline. Nor do I think there are many attempts to even incubate such companies. On the contrary, there’s a mad rush toward solar!
No harm there! Solar is great for India and the need of the hour. However, India should not forget its semiconductor priorities as well! Indian simply cannot bank on chip design services and solar gains, and then proclaim that it has a very successful semiconductor industry! Real action is still quite far away.
I think, India needs to rethink its semiconductor strategy! It cannot survive on chip design alone.
“When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything,” concludes the song from The Sound of Music!
So, is the Indian semiconductor industry hitting the right notes? That’s going to be my next blog post, friends.
Finally, the USA has Barack Obama as its 44th president! There are bound to be lots of expectations from the new president of the United States.
Very interestingly, and aptly, Obama referred to science and technology in his inaugural speech. Surely, it is not a place for any US president to detail his policy, but from what everyone heard, the new President struck the right chords.
Savor some of these extracts from his inaugural speech:
“The state of the economy calls for action—bold and swift—and we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids, and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.”
“We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost.”
“We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”
Wonderful! The US President clearly hinted at the role science will play during his tenure. Also, his suggestion of ‘harnessing the sun and the winds’ points to the growing importance of renewable energy, hybrid cars, and of course, solar photovoltaics.
I’ve indicated in an earlier blog post that Obama’s, “New Energy for America Plan” could have a significant impact on the US solar industry.
The plan’s provisions include:
• A federal renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires 10 percent of electricity consumed in the US to come from renewable sources by 2012.
• A $150 billion investment over 10 years in research, technologydemonstration and commercial deployment of clean energy technology.
• Extension of production tax credits for five years to encourage renewable energy production.
• A cap-and-trade system of carbon credits to provide an incentive for businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The focus on healthcare could see more attention on medical electronics — just my guess — and use it to provide affordable healthcare services.
I’d be very interested to see even more activity on hybrid cars. Closer to home we have had two great prototypes of hybrid/fuel-efficient cars last year — the Chimera, said to be India’s first plug-in hybrid car, and the Garuda.
As I am about to unwind for the day, I received a press release from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), USA, where the CEA President and CEO Gary Shapiro congratulated Barack Obama on becoming the 44th President of the United States of America, saying: “On behalf of its 2,200 consumer technology member companies, CEA congratulates President Obama, our first digital president, on his inauguration.”
Indeed, Obama is the USA’s and the world’s first digital president! I’d go on to add that he’s the world’s first Web 2.0 president! For instance, the amount of activity on Facebook has been overwhelming. Oh, in case you happen to visit the White House web site, it’s brand new! The site says: “WhiteHouse.gov will be a central part of President Obama’s pledge to make his the most transparent and accountable administration in American history.”
I was very fortunate to attend a webinar on solar PV a couple of days back, thanks to iSuppli, USA. The webinar looked at:
* Polysilicon — what is going on in the market?
* Cells and modules — where will the prices go?
He said: “We believe that solar is a fantastic market. It has been growing over the last four years by revenue. It will continue to grow! There are not many industries with a growth path like that! However, in last the 18 months, the supply has been disconnected from demand.”
This is exactly the point iSuppli addressed in its webinar. Dr. Wicht was accompanied by Stefan de Haan, senior analyst, photovoltaics, iSuppli.
iSuppli’s recent findings are:
* Severe supply chain imbalances exist at polysilicon/wafer and cell/module levels.
* Short term polysilicon and module prices will decrease significantly.
Polysilicon: What’s going on with supply and pricing?
If you looked at the global solar PV industry, many plants are under construction, and there are huge capacity expansion plans. There has been a dramatic decrease in production. In 2008, iSuppli estimated total production of solar PV at 60,000 metric tons. In 2009, about 100,000 metric tons will be produced!
What are the reasons for this supply situation? In 2005-06, the high margins of this industry attracted several newcomers. The cycle time to ramp up a polysilicon plant is 24-36 months, and including another 12 months to get finance, it takes about four years.
He said: “The decisions taken in year 2005-06 are coming to the market now. This is also why we see the big ramp in 2009-10. This is also the reason why the industry will have big difficulties to react on a short term notice. The polysilicon industry is a big super tanker, which has difficulties to maneuver on short term.”
Looking at the demand side of things, iSuppli showed a graph where the two curves — polysilicon supply and polysilicon demand meet, or rather cross, in early 2010. From that point on, the supply line passes the demand line. “That means, from that time onward, we definitely see prices for polysilicon decreasing,” he said.
What will happen in 2009?
The key point to note is that the ramping rates of polysilicon and solar cells are completely different! The ramping rate of polysilicon is much steeper, than on the cell side. Polysilicon is more than doubling, while the cell industry is growing at 34 percent.
According to Dr. Wicht, the gap between demand and supply is already shrinking fast in 2009, which will lead to a price decrease in 2009.
Coming to prices, the polysilicon market boasts two kinds of prices — long term and spot market. According to Dr. Wicht, the long term prices are already decreasing from around $100/kg in 2008, and it is expected to be around $80/kg in 2009.
On the other hand, the spot market price peaked in 2008 at around $400/kg. Now, it has already dropped. It will continue to drop, far beyond today’s long term contract price, which will then, from 2010 onward, make up another round of discussion. This is because companies might tend to get out of their long term contracts to secure their silicon on the spot!
Summarizing, he said that polysilicon production will increase heavily. Next, supply will pass demand from 2010 onward, and then the industry will enter the oversupply situation for the next three to four years. The polysilicon industry will also react. In fact, iSuppli anticipates a recent announcement from a solar PV company to expand production capacity would be the last for quite a while!
What about projects on the way? These projects have to come on to the market and many of those will! This is precisely the reason why the industry will see silicon passing solar cells in capacity over the next few years.
Stefan de Haan added that the output of the PV modules industry will grow. The total module prod will likely grow to 11GW this year and to 20GW in 2012. Thin film modules will continuously gain market share and it probably account for 1/3rd of the total market by 2012. Production of crystalline cells will run in parallel. It is likely to reach 9GW for 2009 and 18GW for 2012.
Commenting on the competitive landscape, he added that many new players would be entering production in 2009, especially in the thin film business. “However, the current leaders — QCells, Suntech and First Solar — will increase their edge over the competition in terms of absolute production volumes,” he said.
In general, it is a good thing that the industry is growing and that all of this capacity is coming online. However, this raises the question: can demand can keep up with the supply?
According to iSuppli, in 2009, the installation market will be flattening. In the sense, iSuppli projects that 4.2GW will be installed this year, or about 10 percent growth. However, this growth is much smaller in comparison to the previous years. Some of the reasons for slower growth in 2009 include changes in sustained feed-in tariffs and the global economic slowdown.
Hann added, “In H2-2010, module demand will probably return to the previous growth rates, of more than 20 percent per year.”
Combining demand and supply, there is a massive oversupply of modules that has already been building up since early 2008. Back in 2008, this did not impact on the module prices as there was short term heavy demand from countries like Germany and Spain, from project developers and installation companies, etc. So, this was not noticeable earlier. However, in 2009, the oversupply situation is quite serious!
As a consequence, many suppliers will not be able to react to this situation in the short term. They will still need to run their factories to try and generate some revenue and satisfy the industry. Many had bet on some strong demand coming from USA and also China.
This year, the module prices will decline. Consequently, the declining prices will also create some additional demand. However, for the next two years, this fundamental oversupply situation will not change.
How far will prices drop?
So, what are the message for 2009? First, crystalline module prices will drop to about $2.50 per watt, and second, cost is going to be the differentiating factor! This was a point emphasized strongly by the iSuppli analysts.
Further, how should companies manage this situation, where supply is disconnected by demand? According to Dr. Wicht, there is 11.1GW of module supply vs. 4.2GW of installations. “We do not see that the demand is elastic and that everything will be good after the end of 2009. The gap is too large between demand and supply, and will last till end of 2010.”
Installation capacity will surely become a bottleneck. There will be falling prices for silicon, as well as solar cells and modules. Also, the demand is not that elastic enough to absorb all modules produced.
Therefore, given this situation, what are the options for success, rather, what are the ideas to re-orient the solar PV business?
The first option could be to shut down 50 percent of production till price recovers. However, this is not a realistic option. Another could be to put expansion plans on hold. Yet another option for producers would be to become the best in class in production cost, an option, which is excellent, but difficult!
Probably, the best option would be for makers to integrate downstream. This includes new demand simulation in established markets as well as developing new markets.
Dr. Wicht said: “Anticipating bottlenecks are key for solar. The next bottlenecks are the bureaucracy and installation capacity. The production capacity would not be influential. Production cost and downstream integration are key.” He advised solar PV producers to monitor their PV market demand and supply situation regularly.
Greetings, dear readers and friends, in the new year. May you all have all the success and prosperity in 2009!
An eventful year in semiconductors has passed by us. For me, personally, it has been a tremendous 2008, ending with Electronics Weekly of UK selecting my blog (Pradeep Chakraborty’s Blog) as the world’s best in the Electronic Hardware category.
Lot of people have asked me since, how it feels to be a world champion! Well, I do feel elated! However, one point, more of the congratulatory notes have come from overseas, than from India. Perhaps, it is an apt indicator of how semiconductors is perceived in India — though, I may be wrong.
Friends have also asked me how I’ve managed to blog on such a difficult subject sitting in India. Simply put: It has not been easy!
First, I’m just a simple person, and not some brand name. Second, my blog does not represent any large, well known media house, or a big brand semiconductor magazine. Hence, maintaining a semicon blog, with the help of contacts from all over the world has been tough, at times. Why, some folks, with whom I wished to speak with, never even responded to my emails and requests. Quite understandable!
Third, I’ve only managed to blog, when I have the time, unlike many other great bloggers who post regularly (or daily)! Fourth, there have been several instances, where my location has been my weak point. I was unable to blog on several instances simply because I had no way of reaching people whom I wished to speak with, while sitting in India. And, as I said, I did get cold snubs on several instances! As a result, I could not present my views at specific instances, even though I dearly wanted to!
However, the unconditional and loving support and encouragement of my family, friends, well wishers, industry leaders and loyal readers such as you have helped overcome all of these deficiencies. It is only because of these people that I’ve managed to come this far! I hope each one of you continues to have faith in me. I shall try my best to provide you with the best information (hopefully) the global semiconductor industry has to offer.
To start off the new year, may I present, what I feel, are the top blog posts on semiconductors during 2008, as a review for the past year.
Being indisposed at the start of 2008, I only managed to pick up speed from April onward. As the year progressed, the Indian fab story with SemIndia started worsening, before finally disappearing, even as fabless India held on sttong, as did the fortunes of the global semiconductor industry, which incidentally, did look quite good till September last year.
I have arranged the blog posts, from January to December 2008, so they will present a better picture of how 2008 behaved! These posts are set in no particular order or preference, otherwise. Some of you may have your own favorites, so kindly let me know, in case those haven’t made the list.
Power awareness critical for chip designers
LabVIEW 8.5 delivers power of multicore processors
NXP India achieves RF CMOS in single chip
VLSI as a career in India
Using ‘semicon’ simulation for drug discovery
New camps promise exciting times ahead in memory market
Indian design services to hit $10.96bn by 2010
Staying ahead of clock a habit at Magma!
Dubai — an emerging silicon oasis
Developers, go parallel, or perish, says Intel
Think AND not OR; Altera first @ 40nm FPGAs
Top 10 global semicon predictions — where are we today
Semicon to grow 12pc in 2008
India’s growing might in global semicon
10-point program for Karnataka semicon policy
Has the Indian silicon wafer fab story gone astray?
Semicon half year over, what next now?
EDA as DNA of growth
Semicon is no longer business as usual!
Cadence C-to-Silicon Compiler eliminates barriers to HLS adoption
Practical to take solar/PV route: Dr. Atre, Applied
What India brings to the table for semicon world! And, for Japan
NAND update: Market likely to recover in H2-09
E Ink on every smart surface!
RVCE unveils Garuda super fuel-efficient car
Indian fab policy gets 12 proposals; solar dominates
90pc fab investments for 300mm capacity: SEMI
Synopsys’ Dr Chi-Foon Chan on India, low power design and solar
Magma’s YieldManager could make solar ‘rock’!
Motion sensors driving MEMS growt
BV Naidu quits SemIndia; what now of Indian fab story?
Top 20 global solar photovoltaic companies
IDF Taiwan: Father of the Atom an Indian!
TI Beagle Board for Indian open source developers and hobbyists
Cadence’s Virtuoso vs. Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer!
Synopsys’ Galaxy Custom Designer tackles analog mixed signal (AMS) challenges
Solar, semi rocking in India; global semi recovery in 2010?
No fabs? So?? Fabless India shines brightly!!
AMD’s roadmap 2009 provides lots of answers… now, to deliver!
Embedded computing — 15mn devices not so far away!
FPGAs have adopted Moore’s Law more closely!
My blog is the world’s best!
Semicon outlook 2009: Global market could be down 7pc or more
Altera on FPGAs outlook for 2009
Solar sunburn likely in 2009? India, are you listening
Outlook for solar photovoltaics in 2009!
I found it difficult to select the Top 10 posts. If any one of you can draw up such a list, it’d be great!
Friends and dear readers, this is my last blog post for 2008! Indeed, what a year this has been!!
Let me bid this year goodbye with a general outlook on the global solar photovoltaics industry for 2009.
iSuppli had recently put out a report on solar eclipse coming in 2009! I had blogged about the possible solar sunburn ahead, as well, earlier last week!
Another point that has interested me is: what happens to the top 20 global solar photovoltaic companies, based on iSuppli’s analysis! This blog post has perhaps been the most popular in recent times.
I was very lucky to re-associate with Dr. Henning Wicht, Senior Director, Principal Analyst, iSuppli Deutschland GmbH, in Munich, Germany, for this discussion, thanks to the efforts of Jon Cassell and Debra Jaramilla!
How bad is solar?
The first and the most obvious question: how bad is the global solar market right now and why?
According to iSuppli, bringing an end to eight consecutive years of growth, global revenue for photovoltaic (PV), panels is likely to plunge by nearly 20 percent in 2009, as a massive oversupply causes prices to drop!
Worldwide revenue from shipments of panels will decline to $12.9 billion in 2009, down 19.1 percent from $15.9 billion in 2008. A drop of this magnitude has not occurred in the last 10 years and likely has not happened in the entire history of the solar industry.
Dr. Henning Wicht says that the upstream part of the solar business (cell, module, etc.) will suffer from price decline due to strong oversupply. The downstream side will benefit (installation, end-user, investor, etc.) by lower system prices.
Therefore, what can the solar players do to get over this coming bad phase in 2009? Well, three things: improve the cost structure, improve the sales side, and diversify downstream… These points hold strong for all fully integrated and non-integrated solar panel suppliers as well. By the way, fully integrated solar panel suppliers are likely to suffer less severe losses than non-integrated competitors.
There must be some way around to to bring about some balance within the current imbalance in the demand and supply situation. While Dr. Wicht agrees this is a difficult one to answer this early, he adds that supply and demand are diverging heavily. “With the current trajectories even in 2012, 100 percent more modules are produced than installed,” he says. I promise to discuss this question again with the good Dr. in another six months time.
Word of wisdom
There are various support programs in place, and it is important to know whether they will continue to remain beneficial, both to support markets to become independent sustainable and to develop the regional industry.
Dr. Wicht believes the support programs are still required and beneficial. “If China, India, Mexico and other sunny regions would start to support solar installations, that could change the picture drastically,” he notes.
A note of warning for new entrants in the solar photovoltaic space! Be aware that this warning has been earlier highlighted in the global semiconductor outlook for 2009! In tune with what the various analysts have maintained earlier, iSuppli also forsees newcomers in the solar photovoltaic line having problems in getting the required credit for their projects.
What next for Europe, emerging regions?
According to iSuppli, the short-term boost in demand from Spain and Germany has kept the installation companies busy, and solar orders and module prices high. But this boom is over. So, what’s next for European players?
According to Dr. Wicht, Germany and Spain should continue their leading role as solar installation regions, even after the boom. France, Italy and Czech Republic are attractive, but still much smaller markets, he maintains.
iSuppli has also mentioned that the race to larger manufacturing scale comes to an end when the production is not sold anymore! In that case, what’s the case for the emerging nations, like China and India? Aren’t there buyers in such places?
Dr. Wicht says: “Demand in the traditional solar markets is not elastic enough to absorb all of the solar production. Potential new markets, for example, China and India, do not yet have installation capacities and administration to significantly change the global solar demand short term.”
iSuppli also feels that the newer Chinese and Taiwanese suppliers will be hit particularly hard during 2009. The reason being, many suppliers have expanded their production capacities heavily without securing equally the sales/downstream part.
Global top 20 rankings to change?
Now to the most interesting part! Most of you have read about the top 20 global solar photovoltaic suppliers. Following the iSuppli warning of a ‘solar eclipse’ in 2009, there is every likelihood that there will be changes in that table!
Dr. Wicht adds, “However, the top 10 companies are typically better placed than the competition regarding their cost structures, downstream integration and vertical integration.”
Obama’s solar plans!
Now on to yet other interesting point! The US President-elect, Barack Obama’s, New Energy for America plan could well have a significant impact on the US solar industry.
The plan’s provisions include:
• A federal renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that requires 10 percent of electricity consumed in the US to come from renewable sources by 2012.
• A $150 billion investment over 10 years in research, technology demonstration and commercial deployment of clean energy technology.
• Extension of production tax credits for five years to encourage renewable energy production.
• A cap-and-trade system of carbon credits to provide an incentive for businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr. Wicht says: “We all know that Obama is in favor of renewable energy. However, he will not change a 160 percent oversupply of solar panels in 2009.”
Bumpy ride to grid parity?
On another note, and a pretty favorite one: Is it going to be a “bumpy road” to grid parity? How will the subsidies be kept going?
Dr. Wicht notes: “Subsidies will continue. It will always be a bumby road because the ramping cycles differ heavily among silicon, cells, modules and the installation capacity. Please remember that the installation business will now benefit from low module prices. It will recover some of the margins it has lost in the last years due to high module prices.”
Also, up to when will polysilicon constraints last? iSuppli had earlier indicated PV strategy changes. According to Dr. Wicht, the polysilicon prices are coming down already. “Our indication from October 2008 seems to be fairly good,” he says.
Lastly, will iSuppli be still sticking by solar, semicon investments being equal by 2010?
Dr. Wicht says: “Please let me cite again our interview in October: The investments for solar production raising up to several hundreds of Mio USD, up to 1 Bio $ per production site. That is coming close to a semiconductor fab. The total capex of semiconductor is still 10 times larger than PV. However, PV is rising much faster.”
That will be all for this year, folks!
Look forward to sharing much more captivating moments in semiconductors, electronics, solar photovoltaics, telecom, etc., in 2009!
Wishing all of you a very happy, prosperous and successful 2009. Be safe and look after yourself! See you next year!!