Polysilicon stabilization will be short-lived

German PV forecaster Johannes Bernreuter is predicting a tough year ahead for polysilicon manufacturers and says the stabilization and even slight upswings in pricing seen in recent months will be short-lived.

Bernreuter, author of the 2014 Who’s Who in Solar Silicon Production report, says the respite in a global oversupply of polysilicon caused by manufacturers taking 135,000 metric tons (MT) of capacity offline since 2011 will last no longer than six months as cheaper production facilities come into operation this year.

Bernreuter, of Bernreuter Research, is predicting a rollercoater ride for polysilicon manufacturers this year with an initial upswing in poly prices to be seen in the first half of the year from the $18/kg seen last month. Bernreuter says the price could rise to between $21 and $24/kg based on 49 GW of PV capacity being installed worldwide this year, or to $20/kg based on a more conservative 46 GW.

But with 66,000 MT of poly production capacity expected to come online this year, including new entrants and recommissioned Chinese production lines and expected to include around 22,000 MT of cheaper fluidized bed reactor lines using monosilane as a feed gas, the price of poly will fall back to $16/kg by the end of the year as an oversupply situation returns.

The fluidized bed reactor technology, which enables polysilicon manufacture cheaper than the conventional Siemens method, ‘will push expensive producers out of the market,’ warns Bernreuter in the 124-page report.

The Who’s Who report finds the global output of polysilicon fell 4% in 2013, from 238,000 MT to 228,000 MT.

The latest Who’s Who report includes Bernreuter’s predictions for polysilicon supply, demand, price and manufacturing costs through to 2017.