MUNICH, GERMANY: After falling by about 50 percent from 2009 through 2014, pricing for solar glass is set to commence a rebound starting next year, as anti-dumping duties levied by the European Union go into effect on Chinese suppliers.
Average global pricing for glass used in photovoltaic (PV) solar is expected to fall to $4.60 per square meter this year, down from $10.40 in 2009, according to IHS Technology.
However, pricing will begin to stabilize and begin a long-term increase starting next year. By 2018, solar glass pricing will increase to $5.90 per square meter, up 11 percent from the low point this year, as presented in the attached figure.
“The sharp drop in solar glass prices during the last five years was the result of massive oversupply in the market,” said Karl Melkonyan, solar research analyst at IHS Technology.
“Chinese government subsidies on solar glass caused domestic suppliers to increase production and exports. However, the European Union’s move to impose countervailing duties on solar glass imported from China will limit supply in the market, leading to an expected increase in prices.”
Made in China
In 2010, imports accounted for only 7 percent of total solar glass supply in Europe. This share grew to 30 percent in 2013. For 2014, more than 90 percent of imports will come from China, up from 35 percent in 2010.
This means that in 2014, Chinese manufacturers will account for 27 percent of total solar glass supply in Europe, up from 2.5 percent in 2010.
Encouraged by government subsidies, many Chinese glass manufacturers entered the solar glass segment and started an aggressive pricing strategy in overseas markets, following a similar pattern to China’s participation in the module space. The price undercutting caused a strong oversupply and price collapse in the market.
High imports from China led to lost profits and shutdowns of factories for European solar glass producers.
In response, the European Union in May imposed five-year tariffs on solar glass from China. The EU imposed countervailing duties on solar glass imported from China in a range of about 3 to 17 percent, depending on the level of subsidy that a solar glass company received from China.
IHS estimates the global demand for flat glass—the parent category of solar glass—in 2013 was 47.6 million metric tons. With an estimated 55 percent share, China dominates flat glass supply. Europe follows with a 16 percent share.
The Asia-Pacific region is forecast to remain the largest and fastest-growing market for solar glass during the next five years. However, only a few first-tier suppliers from China will provide what customers consider to be high-end products.
ARC of triumph
In other developments in solar glass, the global market share of anti-reflective coated (ARC) solar glass in 2018 is projected to reach 85 percent.
Anti-reflective coatings increase module power output and lower the cost-per-watt, which is the key value measure for any solar-power-generating system.
After a weak 2012, the fast-recovering PV market has also contributed to a strong demand for solar glass with AR coating, with about 50 percent growth during each of 2013 and 2014.
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