No End in Sight for Polysilicon Over-Supply

NPD Solarbuzz Forecasts Tier 1 Polysilicon Production Will be Greater than PV Industry Requires in 2012

Santa Clara, Calif., October 1, 2012—Despite the fact that most leading polysilicon producers have been operating at a loss, polysilicon capacity is expected to grow 22% in 2012 and a further 18% in 2013, according to the NPD Solarbuzz Q3’12 Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly Report. Average industry-wide polysilicon prices for photovoltaic (PV) applications are forecast to drop 52% in 2012, while plant utilization is expected to decline from 77% in 2011 to 63%.

“The last thing the polysilicon industry needs right now is more capacity. But some of the new plants that were started two to three years ago are proving hard to abandon,” stated Charles Annis, Vice President at NPD Solarbuzz. “In addition, some producers are adding capacity in an attempt to lower their costs through economies of scale. Some are improving capacity productivity, while others are upgrading manufacturing technology, such as adopting hydrochlorination, to reduce power consumption and increase scale.”

Total polysilicon capacity will exceed 385,000 tons in 2012, of which 70% is held by a small number of tier 1 producers. In fact, these tier 1 providers alone are forecast to satisfy all polysilicon demand under the NPD Solarbuzz most-likely end-market scenario for the next few years.

Figure 1: Tier 1 Makers PV Polysilicon Supply/Demand Scenario

Source: NPD Solarbuzz Q3’12 Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly Report

Unless end-market demand provides a strong upside surprise to expected polysilicon requirements, many of the 57 tier 2 and 3 producers are likely to exit the industry within the next 18 months. Indeed, even a few of the less-experienced tier 1 makers may not survive over the next couple of years.

Average polysilicon prices are forecast to start to stabilize in 2013 at around $21/Kg, as the remaining players rationalize utilization rates in line with end-market requirements while ensuring that selling prices remain above their cash costs.

“If China’s Ministry of Commerce decides to impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties on polysilicon imports, prices are likely to increase,” added Annis. “However, this will only help a limited number of local Chinese polysilicon producers. It will hurt not only foreign producers but many Chinese wafer, cell, and module makers. Also, it will not help to resolve the polysilicon oversupply issue and could restrict end-market growth due to higher prices.”

In addition to import duties, any increase in polysilicon prices will likely be limited by first tier supply sufficiency and end market demand for the next couple of years. However, tier 1 polysilicon producers continue to plan for longer term PV involvement, where low cost structures, economies of scale, and continuously improving productivity are expected to yield benefits as shipment volumes grow.

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

About NPD Solarbuzz
NPD Solarbuzz, part of The NPD Group, is a globally recognized market research business focused on solar energy and photovoltaic industries. Since 2001, NPD Solarbuzz has grown its client-base to include many of the largest global PV manufacturers, major investment banks, equipment manufacturers, materials suppliers, hedge fund companies, and a vast range of other multi-nationals. NPD Solarbuzz offers a wide array of reports, including Marketbuzz, an annual global PV industry report, and Solarbuzz Quarterly, which details both historical and forecast data on the global PV supply chain. The company’s research also provides annual downstream PV market reports by region for Europe, Asia Pacific and US markets. In addition, Solarbuzz.com is a recognized and respected online resource within the solar industry. For more information, visit www.solarbuzz.com or follow us on Twitter at @Solarbuzz.

About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 2,000 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps our clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, entertainment, fashion, food, home and office, sports, technology, toys, video games, and wireless. For more information, contact us or visit npd.com and www.npdgroupblog.com. Follow us on Twitter at @npdtech and @npdgroup.

Solarbuzz and Marketbuzz are registered trademarks of The NPD Group.

 

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