Report finds silicon market recovering on the back of solar demand

20. June 2011 | Global PV markets, Markets & Trends | By:  Jonathan Gifford

Solar grade polysilicon triples in demand and prices forecast to remain above $3,000 per ton.

Workers at the Suntech solar manufacturing facilities perform quality control on a module.

Chinese photovoltaic industry remians a large consumer of silicon, report finds, as growth continues and prices rebound. Image: Suntech.

A recent report into the silicon and ferrosilicon markets has found rebounding prices as demand for solar grade polysilicon continues to grow. The report also finds higher profit margins in photovoltaic industry supply than silicon production for other industries.

While the Roskill Information Services report predicts that silicon metal and ferrosilicon will continue to make up the greatest segment of the market, in aluminum and steel production respectively, silicon for photovoltaic modules will grow by approximately 20 percent per annum in the longer term. At present, photovoltaic module production accounts for 12 percent of the global silicon market.

Noting that between 2004 and 2010, grid-connected solar capacity grew on average by 60 percent per year, the report forecasts that as technological improvements and volume of module production increases, demand for silicon will grow at steady rates. While the market is not expected to grow at rates of 50 to 60 percent per year, as observed in the past, healthy growth will lead to sizable, steady silicon market expansion.

The 13th edition of the "Silicon and Ferrosilicon: Global industry markets and outlook" report also observes that Chinese producers remain the largest silicon source, accounting for 46 percent of the global supply. In 2010, China was also the largest consumer of silicon products.

Prices for silicon have reacted strongly in the latter half of 2010 after sharp falls in 2009. They are forecast to remain above $3,000 per ton and possibly moving towards $4,000 per ton after 2013.

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