SANTA CLARA, USA: PV polysilicon and wafer prices fell approximately 50 percent in 2011. With demand for solar systems forecast to be down or flat in 2012, polysilicon and wafer prices are expected to remain under heavy pressure. As a result, revenues for both industries are predicted to shrink, polysilicon by 35 percent and wafer by 47 percent.
Fig. 1: Polysilicon and PV Wafer Industry Revenues
As described in the new NPD Solarbuzz Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly, significant oversupply of both polysilicon and wafer production is causing less competitive manufacturers to temporarily idle or shutter factories and reduce utilization. Polysilicon factory utilization is forecast to fall from 76 percent in 2011 to 66 percent in 2012. Wafer utilization is forecast to fall from 64 percent to 57 percent.
In this very challenging market, cast-mono is emerging as an important strategy for wafer and vertically integrated module makers, particularly in China, to increase competiveness. The technology enables hybrid mono/multi-crystalline ingots to be grown in high productivity conventional multi-crystalline DS casting furnaces at lower costs than Cz grown mono ingots.
“Chinese manufacturers know they need to increase conversion efficiencies in order to remain competitive in the oversupplied market. They see cast-mono as a low-cost approach with relatively low technical barriers to achieving this goal,” stated Charles Annis, VP at NPD Solarbuzz.
Commercial production of cast-mono wafers and modules began in 2011. This year, cast-mono is predicted to account for 2.4 GW, or about 8 percent, of total PV wafer production. Based on survey results detailed in the report, cast-mono production is forecast to grow steadily and to account for more than 25 percent of all wafer production by 2016.
“Many leading Chinese manufacturers are very optimistic about cast-mono, but there are still multiple technical and commercial challenges, such as the wide range of efficiency distributions and the non-uniform appearance of modules, which need to be resolved before the technology can fully achieve its promise of higher efficiency at lower costs. In 2012, we will see how the end market receives a strong supplier push of cast-mono,” added Annis.