Global Demand for Polysilicon to Surge 25% in 2014, According to NPD Solarbuzz

Santa Clara, Calif., February 10, 2014—Demand for polysilicon used in solar and semiconductor applications is expected to rise sharply to 282,000 metric tons in 2014, up 25% versus last year. According to the latest NPD Solarbuzz Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly report, the growth in demand for polysilicon is being driven by the rapid increase in end-market solar photovoltaic (PV) module shipments, which are now expected to reach approximately 49 gigawatts (GW) this year.

Figure 1: Polysilicon Demand

Source: NPD Solarbuzz Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly

Polysilicon used for semiconductor applications typically requires very high purity of 11N (99.999999999%) and very low levels of contaminants. Semiconductor polysilicon is a high value-added segment, but future demand growth in this mature market is only expected to be modest.

In contrast, solar PV-grade polysilicon has less stringent purity requirements, but it has the potential for very high growth rates when solar panel demand is strong; however, the growth trajectory in polysilicon supply and end-market demand is not always directly correlated.

It may take three to six months after polysilicon is produced for it to be converted into wafers and cells, and then shipped as finished modules through distribution channels for installation. This lag time can push polysilicon demand higher than module demand, in a rapidly expanding market.

“Conversely, the amount of silicon required per watt at the module level has been declining steadily each year,” said Charles Annis, vice president at NPD Solarbuzz. “Solar supply chain companies have lowered the number of grams-per-watt by reducing wafer thickness and kerf loss, increasing yields in all manufacturing steps, reducing module loss, and continuously raising panel efficiency.”

Between 2005 the end of 2014, the average amount of silicon used in a solar module will fall by 55%, to approximately 5 grams-per-watt. This trend is expected to continue, though at a slower rate, as many of the material reduction steps implemented to decrease polysilicon consumption have now been exhausted.

Robust end-market solar PV demand continues to drive polysilicon production levels. This, in turn, raises module efficiencies and reduces costs, which will remain important priorities across the entire solar-PV supply chain, in order to increase profitability in 2014 and stimulate increased end market demand in future years.

For more information about the NPD Solarbuzz Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly, contact us at one of our seven global locations, email us at contact@solarbuzz.com, or call Charles Camaroto at 1.516.625.2452.

About NPD Solarbuzz
NPD Solarbuzz, part of The NPD Group, offers North America PV Markets Quarterly, Marketbuzz, Solarbuzz Quarterly, and other upstream and downstream photovoltaic (PV) market quarterly reports, providing the solar energy and PV industries with global historical and forecast data for the PV supply chain. For more information, visit www.solarbuzz.com or follow us on Twitter at @Solarbuzz.

About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group provides global information and advisory services to drive better business decisions. By combining unique data assets with unmatched industry expertise, we help our clients track their markets, understand consumers, and drive profitable growth. Sectors covered include automotive, beauty, consumer electronics, entertainment, fashion, food/foodservice, home, luxury, mobile, office supplies, sports, technology, toys, and video games. For more information, visit www.npd.com and npdgroupblog.com. Follow us on Twitter at @npdtech and @npdgroup.

NPD Solarbuzz and Marketbuzz are registered trademarks of The NPD Group.

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