Capitalising on the return of growth to the photovoltaic (PV) industry in 2010, the Linde Gases Division of The Linde Group secured over 25 new contact wins and renewals with leading thin-film and crystalline silicon manufacturers worldwide.
These include strategically important wins such Schueco and Bosch in Germany, GCL and Renesolar in China, as well as business expansion with Suntech, Trina and Motech.
This increase in new business has seen Linde’s global PV customer capacity treble to 17.4GW. The majority of this growth has been fuelled by customers in Greater China establishing new production capacity of nearly 13.5GW.
Linde is well positioned to take advantage of the renewed investment into amorphous silicon in 2011 and expects to supply its award-winning fluorine generation technology to additional customers worldwide. The Company is also moving to offer its fluorine expertise for the production of crystalline silicon, which is still expected to dominate the market in 2011, maintaining more than 70 percent market share.
Since January 2010, Linde estimates that over 80 percent of new production capacity has occurred in Asia given the competitive advantage offered by lower manufacturing costs. With manufacturing in Asia continuing to dominate the global supply of PV modules in 2011, Linde sees a number of important trends emerging this year:
1. PV manufacturers outside of Asia are likely to increase their focus on application-specific niche markets such as Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)
2. Further reductions in the manufacturing cost of solar panels, especially in thin film which is re-energising on a large scale in China
3. Continued cost and environmental drivers – Linde expects to partner with customers on more projects to replace NF3 with its innovative F2 gas technology
Dean O’Connor, Head of Market Development & Technology at Linde’s electronics business unit, said: “In 2010, we saw emerging markets in Asia dominate the more mature industry players in Europe. As a leading global supplier of gases to PV manufacturers, Linde is catering to demand. With our innovative fluorine gas solution, we are helping companies improve solar cell efficiency, decrease greenhouse gases and further drive down cost per watt.”
Further, O’Connor predicts: “Indicators are that later in the year, we could see an oversupply of modules which will lead to consolidation and further re-organisation of the leading solar players. Linde’s strategy is to focus on investment with these leading players who have a strong cost base, the best in-house technology and the strongest sales channels.”
In 2011, Linde will continue to lead the market in the supply of gases to Asian manufacturers, building on its recent heavy investment in silane and ammonia infrastructure in China.
GTM Research believes that demand for PV will grow to 18.5 GW in 2011, 11 percent higher than 2010, and will surpass 20 GW in 2012. According to GTM Senior Analyst, Shyam Mehta, “While significant subsidy reductions in 2011 and 2012 will cause Germany to lose much of its lustre as an attractive PV market, it should still be a 4-GW-plus market in these years. Moreover, strong growth in the U.S., Italy, France, Canada, China, and Japan (as well as secondary markets such as Bulgaria and Belgium) will continue to drive overall PV market growth, creating substantial supply chain opportunities in the space.”