Polysilicon Industry Facing Major Shakeout

The global solar polysilicon sector will face a major shakeout in 2011, according to a recent research report from Bernreuter Research.

Polysilicon, the feedstock for the semiconductor and photovoltaic industries, was in short supply until 2009 before the market tipped to oversupply. With upside potential for demand in important PV markets in 2010, pressure on silicon prices will likely be limited this year, the company says. In 2011, however, consolidation in the polysilicon industry appears inevitable.

Without market correction, Chinese manufacturers could produce as much as 80,000 metric tons (MT) in 2012, about one third of a global volume of approximately 250,000 MT, according to the report.

‘The Chinese polysilicon industry will undoubtedly become an important player in the global market,’ states Frank Haugwitz, a photovoltaics consultant in Beijing and co-author of the report. ‘However, about 20 smaller manufacturers, which had an annual production capacity of only 1,500 MT or less at the end of 2009, are the first potential candidates for consolidation.’

Bernreuter Research also examined nine alternative production methods to the standard Siemens process. The development of these techniques was spurred by the silicon shortage in recent years. ‘None of them will challenge the Siemens process in the short term,’ concludes Johannes Bernreuter, head of Bernreuter Research and lead author of the report.

‘In particular, fluidized bed reactor technology has not delivered on its promise of lower manufacturing costs,’ Bernreuter says. Another alternative, upgraded metallurgical-grade silicon, will only play a marginal role, with a market share of less than 1% through 2012, the report predicts.

SOURCE: Bernreuter Research

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