Solar glassmaker posts another set of bumper figures


The solar boom witnessed in the second-half of a Covid-disrupted 2020–and related panel glass shortages–have prompted photovoltaic glass maker Xinyi Solar to almost double its dividend.

The Chinese manufacturer today published an exuberant set of annual figures which featured plans to accelerate new production capacity amid confident predictions the new U.S. administration would join China and the EU in leading the global solar charge.

Having added 1,000-ton-per-day-melting-capacity solar glass production lines in June and August–and with all its furnaces operating around the clock throughout the year–Xinyi said it is stepping up plans to add a new 1,000-ton line each quarter this year. Instead, the first facility was already operating trial runs in late January, the second is expected to be online this month and the other two should be up and running by mid year, the company said.

Robust growth

Despite “a year of challenges and surprises,” in 2020, said Xinyi, “all signs suggest that PV installations will continue to achieve robust growth in 2021.” The Hong Kong Stock Market update issued by Xinyi added: “The market supply of solar glass is expected to remain tight in the near term.”

On that basis, the manufacturer is laying plans for four more 1,000-ton lines in Zhangjiagang, in Jiangsu province, by 2022, with another 12 facilities potentially in the works, including in Anhui.

The global rebound in solar demand after Covid-19 disruption in the first half of the year, plus rising demand for more-PV-glass-intensive bifacial and large-format modules, helped drive up prices in 2020 and appear set to keep supply tight, with Xinyi pointing out it typically takes 1-2 years to bring a new glass production fab to life.

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At one point in 2020, solar glass supply shortages drove prices for the material up 70%, although that followed a 17% fall as project development was hampered by the pandemic in the second quarter, to set a year-on-year average price rise of 12% from 2019.

With Xinyi shipping 19.6% more solar glass than in 2019, thanks to its new production lines, the company posted record gross profits of HK$6.58 billion (US$848 million), up 68% from HK$3.91 billion. The HK$9.99 billion revenue generated by the glass business–up 47% from HK$6.77 billion–more than compensated for a slight fall in income from Xinyi's solar project operation, from HK$2.33 billion to HK$2.32 billion.

Green recovery

The resulting profit attributable to Xinyi shareholders rose 89% from the HK$2.42 billion posted in 2019 to HK$4.56 billion, with the company noting the desire for a green recovery from Covid-19 had driven the significant government policy support “of some countries.”

With the company also developing its first low-iron-silica sand mine last year, in response to rising raw material costs, the only discordant note in its upbeat update related to India which, in solar market terms, Xinyi said, “has taken the biggest hit from Covid-19.”

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