GET warns of multi-crystalline wafer shortage in 2016

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In a brief note accompanying its September earnings, Taiwanese wafer maker Green Energy Technology (GET) has warned that there may not be enough multi-crystalline wafers to meet demand in 2016.

The company notes that global solar markets continue to grow, but that tier-one wafer makers are not expanding capacity. GET has reported a 95% capacity utilization for the last six months. Additionally, GCL-Poly, the world’s largest wafer maker, only added 1 GW of capacity in the first six months of 2015.

“Wafer capacity additions have lagged compared to recent cell and module capacity additions,” notes GTM Research Solar Analyst Jade Jones. “Wafer capacity growth has largely been driven by manufacturing process optimization rather than by aggressive investments in new lines.”

Jones agrees that there may be a shortage in 2016. “2016 will be the tightest wafer supply-demand year yet,” cautions Jones. “There will need to be more capacity announcements to maintain a stable amount of supply and stable prices.”

A look at GET’s results for the first half of 2015 shows the problem. Due to persistently low selling prices, the company reported a -14% operating margin over the six-month period. Margins have been so bad that GCL-Poly considered selling its wafer business in late 2014, but changed course in December.

Inevitably a shortage in wafers will involve an increase in prices, which may have already begun. GET reported a gradual increase in average selling prices in August and September.