solar_panels.jpgUS manufacturer GT Solar, which specialises in equipment for the photovoltaic (PV) industry, has signed a record $171m order with China's Glory Silicon Energy.

The contract, for a larger and more efficient furnace for producing silicon ingots, is the largest single such contract win in GT Solar's history and will include deliveries over the next two years.

The order will equip Glory Silicon Energy's production facility in Yangzhong,


province, which is projected to be one of the largest wafer factories in the world, with an annual capacity of around 1500MW.

Glory Silicon Energy was founded by various investors, including the Huantai Corporation, which was one of the first Chinese businesses to get into the production of solar wafers. Huantai is the biggest supplier of crystalline silicon wafers for Nasdaq-listed Suntech Power, the largest solar cell manufacturer in China.

Glory recently signed a big deal with Switzerland's Meyer Burger, which makes the slicing saws used to cut up silicon ingots into wafers. That came just a month after Meyer, which is listed on the Swiss stock exchange, signed a similar contract for saws with Trina Solar, a NYSE-listed Chinese solar energy play.

As China emerges to be a key player in the PV industry, traditional European and North American PV cell and panel manufacturers are starting to have sleepless nights. Nevertheless, the rise of the Chinese PV upstarts creates big opportunities for western suppliers that make the specialised equipment needed to turn raw silicon into solar cells.

For, this an equipment market where China apparently does not yet have the necessary know-how and given their need for speed, China's PV firms are prepared to swallow their pride and buy tried-and-tested western technology.

More on GT Solar here. More on China's solar energy companies here.