PV polysilicon and wafer margins to recover in 2013

In its quarterly Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly Report, NPD Solarbuzz says that average polysilicon prices should be around US$23/kg in 2013, and wafer prices, around $0.24/W.

In a statement, the company wrote, "As prices approach current cash costs of even tier 1 makers, price declines are expected to slow to less than seven percent per year." As such, it believes top tier polysilicon and wafer producers will be able to achieve positive profit margins, although they are unlikely to be above 30 percent, as has previously been seen.

The "less competitive" polysilicon and wafer players are not expected to survive at such low prices, however, Charles Annis, VP at NPD Solarbuzz, says "even at prices $0.25/W, top-tier wafer makers, particularly those with low-cost internal polysilicon supply, are targeting 12 percent or better margins."

The company added that wafer manufacturers are continuing to lower their processing costs, including reducing slurry consumption, kerf loss and electricity consumption, and increasing recycling and conversion efficiency.

The positive news comes on the back of what is expected to be a tough 12 months for the industry. For the full year 2012, NPD Solarbuzz forecasts that prices will fall 48 percent and 56 percent, year on year, for polysilicon and wafers, respectively. "With such severe price declines, only 12 Chinese PV polysilicon manufacturers are still producing, and more than half of these companies are running at significantly reduced utilization rates. Industry-wide, wafering plant utilization is forecast to average only 53 percent in 2012," it said in the statement.