Polysilicon capacity expansions to pick up speed in 2015

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GTM Research has released a new report which finds that rebounding prices and end-market growth are encouraging expansions of polysilicon production capacities and resumption of production at previously shuttered facilities.

Polysilicon 2015-2018: Supply, Demand, Cost and Pricing predicts that 70,000 metric tons of annual polysilicon production capacity will come online in 2015, and another 61,000 metric tons in 2016.

This will bring global polysilicon capacity to 437,000 metric tons, enough to support 85 GW of crystalline silicon PV module production. GTM Research estimates that at least 60 GW of PV demand will be needed to maintain supply/demand balance in 2016, and if demand is not great enough this could cause prices to crash.

However, through the end of 2015 GTM Research expects prices to remain stable at US$18-24 per kilogram. The global polysilicon market came out of its last period of oversupply in the second half of 2013, following a period of “severe” overcapacity from 2011 through 2013 which crashed prices and led to heavy losses at many companies.

Another finding of the report is that fluidized bed reactor (FBR) technology will make up a larger portion of polysilicon production. GTM Research predicts that FBR capacity will nearly double from 26,000 metric tons in 2014 to 46,000 metric tons in 2015, and increase again for the next two years.

“We have a really positive view on FBR,” GTM Research Lead Upstream Analyst Shyam Mehta told PV Magazine. “It has an ultimately lower cash cost floor than Siemens process.”

However, despite this growth GTM Research expects FBR to represent only 15% of global polysilicon capacity in 2018. Mehta cites the highly proprietary nature of various FBR technologies as a factor. “In 2018, the only plants that we see scaling up and operating in FBR and those that have been already announced.”