Wafer production costs to fall below $0.20/Watt


A combination of downward wafer and polysilicon production price pressures caused by a continuing global oversupply and accelerating demand for solar modules means a positive outlook for the industry, according to NPD Solarbuzz.

With the market research company having recently revised its predicted 2014 global demand up to 45-50 GW, rising orders and a firming in prices associated with it will benefit the world’s seven biggest polysilicon and wafer manufacturers, who will also reap the benefits of falling production costs.

NPD Solarbuzz classes GCL, Hemlock, OCI, REC Silicon, SunEdison, Tokuyama and Wacker as the world’s Tier 1 suppliers and says manufacturers will soon be able to turn out wafers for less then US$0.20/Watt.

The latest data released by Solarbuzz cites ‘multiple leading polysilicon producers’ whom, it says, have suggested poly production using fluidized bed reactors could see the material produced for less than $10/kg ‘within a few years’ and for less than $14/kg in the ‘near future’ using the more traditional Siemens method.

Presenting the new estimates in a press release today, NPD Solarbuzz VP Charles Ennis says polysilicon producers are lowering costs through relocating to areas with low electricity costs; building FBR reactor plants or converting Siemens facilities, reducing power consumption, increasing plant productivity and even through constructing in-house power plants.

Equally, says Ennis, wafer producers are cutting costs through increasing multicrystalline ingot size from Gen 4/5 to Gen 6/7; reducing slurry composition and increasing recycling; using diamond sawing for monocrystalline applications; and benefiting from increased efficiencies as the crytsallization quality improves.

Rising demand, says Solarbuzz will see prices firming up and even rising in some areas where there is demand pressure, such as for high-efficiency wafers, which will prompt suppliers to bring mothballed production facilities which never started up into use as well as prompting companies such as Comtec to open new factories.

The Solarbuzz update makes no mention of the impact of anti dumping duties applied by the Chinese government to imports of polysilicon from the U.S. and South Korea.

An investigation into whether to apply such duties to EU-made polysilicon is ongoing.