In the fourth quarter of 2010 (Q4'10), the PV book-to-bill ratio posted a three-month average of 1.10, according to an analysis featured in the Solarbuzz PV Equipment Quarterly report. Across the entire year, the 12-month average in 2010 reached 1.27 – compared to 0.97 for 2009.
The book-to-bill ratio compares the total amount of orders received to the total amount of product shipped and billed within a given period – i.e., the ratio of demand to supply in the equipment supply chain. A PV book-to-bill ratio of 1.10 for Q4'10 means that $110 of orders was received by PV equipment suppliers for every $100 of product shipped, Solarbuzz explains.
‘The latest PV book-to-bill figures reflect the ongoing investments across both c-Si and thin-film segments, which are driving strong capacity expansions planned for 2011,’ says Finlay Colville, senior analyst at Solarbuzz. ‘Tier-one c-Si manufacturers are expanding to reach vertically integrated gigawatt-plus status on the back of still-strong order books.’
‘Conversely, investments into a-Si/uc-Si and CIGS thin-film technologies represent the continued push by new entrants to find low-cost alternatives to First Solar's exclusive challenge to c-Si dominance in the market today,’ Colville continues.
Working closely with the PV equipment supply chain, the Solarbuzz PV book-to-bill analysis maps out quarterly spending profiles by all PV manufacturers with the relevant bookings and revenues assigned to the appropriate process tool manufacturers. The consolidated analysis yields an averaged figure based on industry-wide equipment investments across established and emerging technologies.
However, according to the company, tier-one cell manufacturer trends can be a more appropriate leading indicator to assess the impact of production equipment used to meet end-market PV demand.
‘Tier-one-designated c-Si cell and thin-film panel producers satisfied 75 percent of PV demand during 2010,’ Colville notes. ‘Equipment supply to this crucial midstream solar cell manufacturing segment highlights the portion of overall PV capacity expansion that is most likely to drive the level and timing of any panel oversupply during the second half of 2011.’