US-China trade war pushes thin film market to 11-month high

Data compiled by analyst firm PVinsights has revealed that spot prices for thin film modules have reached their highest level since the end of July last year as uncertainty over the U.S.-China trade dispute rumbles on.

Thin film modules were spot-priced at 61.2 cents/kW today – a 5.2% increase in the past month and the highest price since July 31 2013. Having plunged to a record low of 58.2 cents/kW on June 4, thin film modules have been steadily rising in price ever since the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) proposed closing a loophole that currently allows Chinese-made modules to circumvent current anti dumping (AD) duties.

Over the same period, spot prices for polysilicon panels – the more commonly used technology and an sector dominated by Chinese suppliers – have fallen by 2.8% to 63.2 cents/kW. Thin film manufacturers such as First Solar from the U.S. and Solar Frontier from Japan are likely to welcome the news, although the increased uncertainty in the market being caused by the ongoing dispute has not curried favor with most solar companies.

"It is very possible that the trade wars have made really low-cost Chinese modules increasingly unusable in many markets," mused Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s solar analyst, Jenny Chase. "That is causing developers to look at thin film."

The DOC is expected to finally determine the level of duties set against polysilicon modules from China and Taiwan by August 18. Preliminary duties have been levied at 19% and 35% respectively, with the International Trade Commission also poised to issue a ruling on the DOC’s actions within 45 days of that date.