For most of its history, the semiconductor manufacturing supply chain has been dominated by the electronics industry. But an upstart solar industry has recently burst onto the scene, causing a sharp rise in silicon production while simultaneously changing the face and focus of a global industry. For 40 years, the broader semiconductor industry has found advocacy and support from Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI). Two years ago, and in response to the rapid, worldwide ascent of photovoltaics, PV Group was formed as part of SEMI’s growing portfolio mix to focus on issues facing the solar industry specifically and support its growing membership in PV.
PV Group sponsors expositions and conferences within the photovoltaics industry. They also provide general support for its members in public policy, international standards-setting, market research and EH&S. Of SEMI’s 1900-member companies, more than 20 percent are now doing business in PV and over 60 are pure PV players. As the PV equipment industry continues to grow – expected to reach $19 billion globally by 2015 – PV Group is dedicated to streamlining the PV supply chain, working on unifying actions like the establishment of industry-wide standards and the promotion of solar-friendly rules and policies.
In these early years, a primary goal for the group is “to reach out and engage the broader PV community,” says Bettina Weiss, Senior Director of Photovoltaics with PV Group. The dynamics of the PV industry are somewhat unique. More and more, we are seeing early links on the supply chain, like manufacturers working directly with utilities at the far end of chain – a fact that underlies some of PV Group’s goals for the near future. “We want to get smart about the utility sector,” notes Weiss. “While we focus on manufacturing, our members need information and insights into adjacent segments just as much. Increasingly, we have members working directly with utilities, and understanding downstream dynamics has become an imperative.”
In 2010, the rise of major solar markets in Asia and increased market globalization will be two more key changes. “We want to listen carefully to what’s happening around the world,” said Weiss. That includes an immediate focus on China and India, where national governments have taken major recent steps to promote solar power.
Speaking of the year to come, Weiss and PV Group are feeling “cautiously optimistic” about renewed growth in the PV supply chain, especially in the US. Considerable growth is almost definite in the coming years, but uncertainty lingers about exactly when or how fast that growth spurt will start.
In a world where solar installers and panel makers garner most of the spotlight, PV Group and its members are like the man behind the curtain, the tangible, if unsung, foundation of one of the world’s fastest growing industries. Semiconductors, the science behind solar power, are the materials that make solar rooftops happen. PV Group will act in many ways as the facilitator, and most definitely the organizer, of the PV industry’s growth in 2010 and beyond.
For more information, please visit PV Group