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Solar sector presents new EMS opportunities

Posted: 19 Jan 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:EMS? solar? renewable energy? outsourcing?

Arthur R. Tan

Tan: EMS companies have a golden opportunity to capture value in the solar market by applying existing expertise to solar module assembly.

The electronics industry was not spared in the recent worldwide recession, and it is expected to recover by 2010 along with the global economy, which is anticipated to grow by three percent driven by Asia, mainly China and India. Global recessions are times of pent-up demand; as soon as things look up, companies and people start buyingnew electronic devices and replacing old ones. This will drive the production of OEMs. Consequently, the EMS industry will experience higher volume requirement from OEMs.

The global solar industry, arguably a sunrise industry in light of the shifting values toward clean and renewable energy sources, also faced its greatest challenges in 2009, when Spain cut government support for further expansion. This dragged price levels further, falling by more than 30 percent since 2008. Early this year, 2009 global demand was projected to reach only about 3.5 GW, a drop of around 35 percent from 2008. In mid-2009, Germany capitalized on the oversupply trend and the falling costs by filling the gaps left by Spain.

The lingering oversupply in the global solar industry may yet help the market return to its normal growth path by 2010 as global demand reaches 8.34GW. After Spain's decision to put a 500MW cap on their installations for the year, Germany has taken over the reins and is poised to lead Europe's solar market. By 2010, Germany, Spain and Italy are projected to claim an 83-88-percent combined market share in Europe.

Elsewhere, the United States, led by California, is fast growing and is estimated to have the largest market for small solar energy installations by 2011.

China will likewise lead as the manufacturing hub of solar cells and will account for 32 percent of global production by 2012. Both China and India will eventually become market hotbeds as they capitalize on available land in the next five years.

Clean power
The use of solar (photovoltaic, or PV) cells suggests a decreased dependence on fossil fuels, thus helping cut back greenhouse gas emissions. For many years now, solar energy has been the power supply of choice for industrial applications, where power is required at remote locations. Solar energy also makes it possible for on-site and local generation of electricity at point-of-use, that is, the electricity need not be distributed across large distances, hence reducing transmission and distribution losses. It is also frequently used on transportation signaling e.g., offshore navigation buoys, lighthouses, aircraft warning lights on pylons or structures, and increasingly in road traffic warning signals. It powers satellites used for communication, television, and GPS.

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