• Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) reactors and related equipment used to produce polysilicon, the key raw material used in silicon-based solar wafers and cells;
• Directional solidification (DSS) furnaces and related equipment used to cast multicrystalline silicon ingots by melting and cooling polysilicon in a precisely controlled process. These ingots are used to make photovoltaic (PV) wafers which are, in turn, used to make solar cells;
• Advanced sapphire furnaces (ASF) used to crystallize sapphire boules by melting and cooling aluminum oxide in a precisely controlled process. These sapphire boules are used to make sapphire wafers, the preferred substrate for manufacturing light emitting diode (LED) devices, and for use in other specialty markets; and
• Sapphire material is produced in GTAT's sapphire production facility and sold directly to customers. These materials are primarily used to make a variety of products such as epitaxial-ready wafers for the LED industry and other specialty markets.
The company went public on July 24, 2008, pulling $500 million from the IPO. It acquired the third leg of its crystalline furnace-making offering, a LED sapphire maker, in July of 2010. . The company changed its name from GT Solar International to GTAT Advanced Technologies on August 8, 2011
In 2009, GTAT generated a net income of $87.3 million on revenues of $544.2 million. This represents a 0.8% decrease in net income on a 0.6% increase in revenues from 2008, when the company earned $88.0 million on $541.0 million in revenue.
GTAT operates three business segments: Polysilicon, Photovoltaics and Sapphire for LED lighting.
GTAT entered the polysilicon refining industry in 2005.
GTAT's PV segment makes machinery that solar cell manufacturers use to turn polysilicon into solar panels. Its primary product is the directional solidification systems (DSS) unit, which converts polysilicon into multicrystalline ingots.
As the price of oil has skyrocketed and the average citizen has become more aware of his environment, there has been a strong push for the development of economic alternatives to petroleum, especially renewable sources of energy. The push for clean energy has benefited the solar industry. With the expansion of the industry and increased investment, PV solar has made great strides in the last five years as panels have become more efficient and production costs have decreased. According to the Department of Energy’s Solar America Initiative, the hope is that with continued research and increased competition, PV solar power will become a competitive source of commercial electricity by 2015.
As a source of renewable energy, solar has a wide appeal. It is a virtually limitless resource, and once installed, can produce electricity without emitting harmful pollution. In developed countries that see heavy air conditioner usage, peak electricity usage occurs during the hottest, sunniest days of the year - the same days when solar panels can produce the most energy. Solar comes with limitations, however, most notably the poor efficiency of PV modules, which is further reduced by the need to convert DC from solar cells into AC current. Moreover, solar is weather dependent and intermittent, requiring storage or back-up systems to supplement generation at night or on cloudy days. If solar energy overcomes these obstacles and its share of the energy market starts to grow, the industry's production capacity will increase, causing GTAT's market to grow.
Silicon, a necessary input to most solar panels, is one of the most abundant elements on Earth; refined silicon, on the other hand, is in short supply. As solar power has increased in popularity, silicon producers, who previously catered only to the semiconductor market, experienced a surge in demand. Due to limited mining and refining capacity, they were unable to keep up with the increased demand. This created a "shortage" of refined silicon, and caused prices to soar.
A shortage of refined silicon is a double edged sword for GTAT. A continued shortage of refined silicon would prevent the solar industry from expanding production, thereby reducing demand for GTAT's photovoltaic manufacturing equipment - the only equipment that the company has made any revenue on. Furthermore, a silicon shortage increases costs to the solar industry. In the silicon PV industry, the cost of silicon accounts for approximately 45% of each module’s manufacturing cost. This means that when silicon prices rise silicon PV manufacturers are forced to either absorb the extra cost or pass it on to consumers. Higher silicon prices mean higher solar panel prices, making solar less competitive with other, cheaper forms of energy.
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