Chinese polysilicon a key focus at SNEC PV

22. February 2011 | Top News, Markets & Trends, Industry & Suppliers | By:  Shamsiah Ali-Oettinger

The 5th SNEC PV got off to a successful start in Shanghai, China yesterday. Following speculation earlier this year that the spot price for polysilicon is set to increase, attention at the trade show turned to the Chinese polysilicon market.

SNEC PV Shanghai, China

From the previous 85,000 square meters, visitors at this year's SNEC PV will have to brave 150,000 square meters of PV. Image: Solarpraxis AG/Hans-Christoph Neidlein.

The news that prices would rise, of course, came after the deals were confirmed just before the Chinese New Year break. According to reports, the raw material for solar cell production soared to USD$100 per kilogram globally at the end of last year. China produced 50,000 tons of the material, of which output reportedly exceeded 30,000 tons.

Chinese polysilicon prices have been significantly higher than international averages for immediate and long-term orders. The reasons? Rumor on the grapevine has it that China’s polysilicon manufacturers need to embark on a more efficient production path, like its major foreign counterparts. Consequently, production costs have been driven higher. Producers like GCL-Poly have also been planning aggressive expansions, which may at some point start helping to lower the prices of Chinese polysilicon.

Additionally, the Chinese Ministry of Industry recently placed a minimum cap on the market, meaning that a company, if it wants to set up a new plant, must produce at least 3,000 tons of solar grade polysilicon. Energy consumption per kilogram of polysilicon can also be no higher than 80 kilowatt-hours (according to reports, the Ministry will remove any polysilicon production lines that consume over 200 kilowatt hours of energy per kilogram of polysilicon this year). Additionally, new approvals have reportedly been suspended.

Furthermore, at least 98.5 percent of waste hydrogen and fluorosilicone chemicals must now be recycled. A curb has also been placed on banks to lend to projects that cannot meet the criteria.

So, how are Chinese firms handling these demands? The SNEC PV presented an ideal opportunity to check the news in the local scene. The vibe? ‘What high prices? And who says the local firms are not efficient enough already?’

Chief technology officer of ProPower, Chuan Shui is bewildered when asked about the cuts and how it will affect the firm. ProPower has a mega presence at the exhibition, literally. The company's casting furnace stands right at the junction of the two occupied halls, its camouflage spray paint gleaming in the sun. Why camouflage is still a mystery, but it definitely catches the eye.

The company produces 3,000 tons of polysilicon, thus meeting the minimum requirement and, here comes the interesting bit, at a third of the cost of the Siemens process. Intriguing. Shui tells pv magazine that the company has its own method of production. Additionally, the energy that is used is less than 45 kWh. Therefore, the question is repeated, ‘What high prices?’

The confidence that the regulations will have little impact on the growth curve, as well as the competitive edge of Chinese polysilicon is obvious, especially when companies like ProPower dish out the details. Prices remain distinctly competitive.

Efficiency has also been on the minds of local producers. However, CEEG Solar Energy Research Institute's Charlie Chen has faith in them. He sees the growth and the direction of sustainable production growth in china promising and he is immensely pleased with the attention that the country is getting on the PV front.

Shui sums up by saying that he does not see regulations placed on production as threats to sustainable growth. He sees the opposite: it is an opportunity for local companies to start showing that the Chinese can produce at lower costs, but nevertheless at outstanding quality, as well as keeping recycling in mind, especially with the new energy standards as well as the recycling requirements.

The idea is to start getting it clear to the global market that the country is ready to meet competition, not just in terms of dollars and cents, but also in terms of capabilities and quality.

PV, PV and more PV

From the previous 85,000 square meters, visitors at this year's SNEC PV will have to brave 150,000 square meters of PV, PV and more PV. A feast. One is also expected to rub shoulders with more than 1,600 estimated exhibitors, 4,000 experts and scholars and 100,000 professionals.

The VIP list is already looking impressive, with Murray Cameron, the Board Director of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association, Yiren Jiang, Member of the Standing Committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and Chairman of the Presidium of the China Federation of Industrial Economics (CFIE), Dinghuan Shi, Counselor of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and Chief Director of Chinese Renewable Energy Society (CRES) chairing the Presidium. Martin Green, Executive Research Director of the ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence at the University of New South Wales will also be present as one of the chairs of the Academic Committee.

The conference theme for this year is ‘Develop New Energy, Benefit All Mankind’. The nine sessions planned aim to pave the way towards enabling the PV industry to obtain a rapid, steady and sustainable growth. There is also expectation for international exchanges and cooperation in a bid to accelerate the technological advancements in the sector to guarantee quality and expand market application.

The sub-sessions circle around advanced photovoltaic technologies, crystalline silicon solar cells and materials, thin film cells, equipment manufacturing and automation and lastly PV systems and smart grid technologies. This is a slight deviation from last year, where the spotlight fell on investments, financing, silicon materials as well as policy and project bidding as well.

The show, which opened its doors yesterday, is being held from February 22 to 24 at the Shanghai New International Expo Center, Shanghai, China.


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