GT Solar International, Inc., through its subsidiaries, is a leading global provider of specialized manufacturing equipment and services essential for the production of photovoltaic wafers, cells and modules and polysilicon. Our principal products are directional solidification systems, or "DSS" units, and chemical vapor deposition, or "CVD," reactors and related equipment. DSS units are specialized furnaces used to melt polysilicon and cast multicrystalline ingots from which solar wafers are made. CVD reactors are used to react gases at high temperatures and pressures to produce polysilicon, the key raw material used in solar cells. Our customers include several of the world's largest solar companies as well as companies in the chemical industry. The use of our products requires substantial technical know-how and most of our customers rely on us to design and optimize their production processes as well as train their employees in the use of our equipment. We operate through two segments: our photovoltaic business and our polysilicon business.
Our business was founded in 1994. Effective January 1, 2006, our business was acquired by GT Solar Holdings, LLC, a newly formed company controlled by investment funds affiliated with GFI Energy Ventures LLC, a private equity investment firm focused on the energy sector, and Oaktree Capital Management, L.P., a global alternative and non-traditional investment manager. We refer to this transaction as the "Acquisition." We use the term "Predecessor" to refer to the operations of our predecessor for accounting purposes, GT Equipment Technologies, Inc. (now known as GT Solar Incorporated), for periods prior to the Acquisition by GT Solar Holdings, LLC on January 1, 2006 and the term "GT Solar" to refer to us with respect to our results of operations for periods following the Acquisition.
GT Solar International, Inc. was originally incorporated in Delaware in September 2006. On September 27, 2006, we completed an internal reorganization through which GT Solar International, Inc. became the parent company of GT Solar Incorporated, our principal operating subsidiary. On July 29, 2008, we completed an initial public offering of 30,300,000 shares of common stock by certain of our stockholders (the "IPO").
Our Photovoltaic Business
Our photovoltaic business manufactures and sells primarily DSS furnaces, as well as wafer cleaning and etch systems, slurry recovery systems, cell testing and sorting equipment, tabber/stringer machines and other related parts and consumables. We have established a leading position in the market for specialized furnaces essential to the production of multicrystalline wafers. We sell our products separately and as part of "turnkey solutions", where we bundle equipment, including third party equipment, and provide design and integration expertise. We believe we are one of a small number of equipment manufacturers capable of providing photovoltaic turnkey solutions.
Our Polysilicon Business
Our polysilicon business offers CVD reactors and related equipment. Polysilicon is a highly purified form of silicon that is a key raw material used to produce solar wafers. Polysilicon is also used to make semiconductor wafers for microelectronic applications. The chemical vapor deposition process involved in the production of polysilicon takes place in a specialized CVD reactor using a variety of complex chemical processes, the most widely used being the non-proprietary Siemens process, which has been in existence for nearly fifty years. Our CVD reactors utilize the Siemens process.
Growing demand for solar cells over the past several years had previously resulted in a polysilicon shortage. Recently, polysilicon supply has increased due to an increase in polysilicon production capacity as a result of the arrival of new entrants in polysilicon production. Polysilicon demand has recently declined due to a slowdown in the semiconductor device market and in the solar panel market. In July 2006, our polysilicon business received its first order for CVD reactors from OCI Company, Ltd. (formerly DC Chemical Co., Ltd.,) a leading Korean chemical company. Although we had delivered over 100 reactors and related equipment to six customers as of March 28, 2009, we had recognized revenue only with respect to one customer as revenue is recognized only when pre-established reactor output performance criteria have been met and final acceptance by the customer has been received.
Photovoltaic systems are used in industrial, commercial and residential applications to convert sunlight directly into electricity. Volatile global energy prices, increased environmental awareness and the desire for energy security are accelerating the adoption of solar power. Governments around the world have implemented various tax credits and other incentives designed to encourage the use of alternative energy including solar power.
According to Solarbuzz, the global photovoltaic market, as measured by total photovoltaic installations at end customers grew by an estimated 5,900 megawatts ("MW") in 2008, representing a compounded annual growth rate of over 53% since 2004. Solarbuzz estimates that photovoltaic industry revenues were approximately $37 billion in 2008. Solarbuzz projects that the global photovoltaic market and photovoltaic industry revenue will reach 14,800 MW and $53.6 billion, respectively in 2013 in its "Green World" scenario. Although long range industry forecasts have not changed significantly from prior years, estimates for the near term generally indicate a decrease in demand due to current economic uncertainty. In its "Green World" scenario, Solarbuzz estimates annual photovoltaic installations at end customers to decline from 5,900 MW in 2008 to 5,300 MW in 2009, subsequently increasing to 14,800 MW by 2013.
The anticipated long-term growth of the photovoltaic industry is expected to result in increased investment in manufacturing capacity by polysilicon producers and solar manufacturing companies. Total capital expenditures associated with new manufacturing capacity for the production of crystalline silicon photovoltaic products in 2008 were approximately $11 billion, according to Solarbuzz, of which approximately $4 billion was spent on new polysilicon production capacity. In its "Green World" scenario, Solarbuzz estimates that, excluding emerging technologies, approximately 165,000 metric tons ("MT") of polysilicon production capacity will be added from 2008 to 2013.
Despite significant improvement in the investment returns of solar projects, current economic conditions have negatively impacted the availability of financing for major solar projects and, as a result, photovoltaic demand has slowed. Although we believe our long term prospects are in line with photovoltaic industry forecasts, the current underutilization of photovoltaic manufacturing capacity could impact our results for future periods. Due to these current economic conditions, we have reduced our production plans for the year ended April 3, 2010, as compared to March 28, 2009, and have rescheduled or cancelled commitments to our vendors in our photovoltaic business. See "—Manufacturing and Suppliers" below.
Information regarding markets, market size, market growth rates, forecasts and other industry data contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K consists of estimates based on data and reports compiled by professional organizations, industry consultants and analysts, on data from other external sources, and on our knowledge and internal surveys of the solar and polysilicon industries. Marketbuzz 2009, an annual report dated March 2009 prepared by Solarbuzz LLC, an international solar energy market research and consulting company, was the primary source for third party industry data and forecasts.
In view of the emerging nature of the solar and polysilicon industries and the absence of publicly available information on most of the photovoltaic equipment and polysilicon manufacturers (including, without limitation, their existing production capacity, business plans and strategies), the estimates for the size of the solar and polysilicon markets and their projected growth rates set out in this Annual Report on Form 10-K should be considered with caution. Certain market share information and other statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K regarding the solar and polysilicon industries and our position relative to our competitors is not based on published statistical data or information obtained by independent third parties. Rather, such information and statements reflect our management's best estimates based upon information obtained from trade and industry organizations and associations and other contacts within the solar and polysilicon industries. While we believe our internal estimates to be reasonable, they have not been verified by independent sources.
Products and Services
DSS Units. Our DSS unit is a specialized furnace used to melt polysilicon and cast multicrystalline ingots. Multicrystalline ingots are used to produce solar wafers and, ultimately, solar cells. Solar cells made using multicrystalline wafers represented approximately 46% of all solar cells produced in 2008 according to Solarbuzz. The ingot growth stage of the photovoltaic manufacturing process is critical as it determines how efficient solar cells produced from the ingot will be at converting sunlight into electricity. Our DSS units are capable of applying incremental temperature changes on a uniform basis, which is critical to forming the large, uniform crystals required for high efficiency solar cells. We have developed proprietary systems to automate furnace controls during all stages of the crystal growth process. We benefit from a large installed base, a proven design and process technology and high efficiency yield.
Revenue from the sale of DSS units accounted for 72% of our total revenue for the fiscal year ended March 28, 2009, 79% of our total revenue for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2008, and 85% of our total revenue for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2007.