Components > Advanced Semiconductors Blog

Solar Energy Activity Heats Up the Semiconductor Industry

by Eric Higham | Mar 16, 2012

The Strategy Analytics GaAs and Compound Semiconductor Technologies Service (GaAs) viewpoint, “Compound Semiconductor Industry Review October-December 2011: Optoelectronics, Materials and Equipment,” captures product, technology, contract and financial announcements from major material, device and equipment suppliers in the optoelectronics market supply chain, such as AIXTRON, IQE, Kopin, Oclaro, GigOptix, Cree, JDSU, Avago Technologies, Finisar and Osram. These announcements are categorized by material and equipment, laser, LED and compound photovoltaic activity.

Despite recent, highly publicized problems at Evergreen Solar and Solyndra, solar energy continues to play an essential role in political strategy as government and the private sector seeks viable sources for renewable energy. It is easy to get a negative outlook about an entire segment when a couple of the high profile participants run into difficulties. The reality, however, is that solar energy has become a widely deployed form of alternative energy. The product development announcements we captured in Q4 provide a counterpoint to the bankruptcy proceedings at Evergreen Solar and Solyndra and show growth and activity in the compound photovoltaic technologies which underpin the solar market.

The growth starts at the begiining of the supply chain with commitments of $2 billion to increase polysilicon production by 23,000 metric tons per year. Companies like Spire, Avancis, Soitec and First Solar are expanding their photovoltaic module manufacturing plans and TSMC, through its TSMC Solar subsidiary has entered the module manufacturing arena. These announcements, coupled with more companies reporting efficiency records for solar cells points to a vibrant industry with good opportunities for compund semiconductor materials.

The outlook in the LED sector is not quite so upbeat. AIXTRON, one of the leading semiconductor equipment manufacturers reported a steep drop in revenue and orders in 2011. They blame high levels of government funding in China and financing pressures on the Asian LED manufacturers for masking a significant organic slow down in LED demand in China. It appears production in 2012 will continue to grow, but perhaps not enough to offset price erosion. Despite, this, there is still a signficant amount of development activity at companies like Cree, Bridgelux, Epistar and Luminus. These developments aim at increasing efficiency, output and affordability for applications ranging from low power consumer devices to high intensity specialty lighting and streetlights.

Eric

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