Penang-based solar players cautious on expansion


  • Business
  • Wednesday, 16 Oct 2013

GEORGE TOWN: Penang-based solar-cell manufacturing and solar packaging material companies are cautious on expansion following a four-year worldwide solar energy slump.

Tek Seng Holdings Bhd will spend RM50mil to add another production line at its RM130mil solar-cell plant in Penang Science Park next year.

“We had originally planned for more production lines next year,” said Tek Seng group executive chairman Loh Kok Beng.

The plant, under the group’s subsidiary TS Solartech, produces 1.58 million solar cells a month, using 80% capacity of the single production line, according to Loh.

“The solar-cell business will contribute about 10% to the group’s revenue this year,” he said.

In the third quarter 2013, Tek Seng received orders for RM2.5mil worth of solar cells, and going into the fourth quarter it had received orders for about RM2mil, Loh said.

“About 80% of the orders came from China. We also get orders from Europe,” Loh said.

A four-watt solar cell is currently sold for US$1.60 (about RM5), down from around US$2.50 to US$3 two years ago.

Using German solar manufacturing equipment, TS Solartech is able to convert 17.5% of the sunlight into energy.

Meanwhile, Ire-Tex Corp Bhd expects revenue from its solar-panel packaging business to improve by 10% over last year, contributing about 35% to the group’s 2013 revenue.

Ire-Tex generates the balance from supplying packaging materials for the aerospace and automotive industries.

“We expect to sell 8,800 tonnes of these solar materials to multinational corporations in the country this year, compared with 8,000 tonnes in 2012,” Ire-Tex managing director Datuk Donald Yap said.

For the first half of 2013, Ire-Tex produced solar packaging materials worth RM20mil, up 10% from a year earlier.

“We are producing about 700 tonnes of solar panel packaging materials per month, compared with 630 tonnes per month a year ago,” he said.

Yap said the group’s RM30mil manufacturing facility in Kulim would be ready in 2014 and would cater to the domestic solar power industry.

According to research firm NPD Solarbuzz’s latest report, the end-market solar photovoltaic (PV) system revenue is forecast to reach US$65bil–US$75bil, compared with US$68bil in 2012 and US$92bil in 2011, when module and system prices were 20%-50% higher than today.

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