- Rethink Energy report on global polysilicon market says by 2030 there will be enough polysilicon capacity to support nearly 1,000 GW PV production
- Polysilicon shortage will continue to limit global solar installations till mid-2023 when 250 GW of polysilicon solar will be commissioned
- In 2020, polysilicon prices went down to as low as $6.00 per kg, but have now gone up to around $40.00 per kg
- The low prices can be a reality once again in at least 5 years’ time, post which these can be expected to go further down
US based energy market research firm Rethink Energy believes 2022 will be the ‘second and last’ year of the current polysilicon shortage, and that by 2030 its global production capacity will be enough to manufacture PV worth of 1,000 GW.
Compare this forecast to the global polysilicon manufacturing capacity of just 621,000 tons in 2021, as per Rethink, with actual supply being under 579,000 tons. Add to it various concerns delaying some projects, global solar installations were less than 180 GW in 2021. Had the supply chain issues not existed, the world would have experienced demand between 205 GW and 220 GW.
Andries Wantenaar, lead author of the Rethink report titled Polysilicon Manufacturing forecast to 2030, says the polysilicon shortage will continue to limit global solar installations till mid-2023 when they expect 250 GW of polysilicon solar to be commissioned.
The Rethink analysts count, “An expansion to nearly 4 million tons of solar-grade polysilicon production capacity will have been announced, between writing the report and publishing it. Running at two-thirds capacity utilization would be enough to manufacturer 900 GW of photovoltaics every year.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic related challenges were faced by the global solar market—most of which was under severe lockdown in various countries, not to forget high shipping costs—‘low-cost’ Chinese production had pushed several companies out of business.
With practically no demand, in 2020 polysilicon prices went down to as low as $6.00 per kg, according to the report, and have rebounded to around $40.00 per kg now. Profits for polysilicon makers due to this high demand went up to as much as 300% ‘prompting massive expansion plans’.
In at least 5 years’ time, this record low price can be achieved once again post which it can be expected to go further down, according to the report.
“As power prices once again start to fall, the result will be record low prices for polysilicon, consolidation, and several bankruptcies for those who fail to invest in reducing costs within the capital-intensive polysilicon segment,” explains Wantenaar. “For solar as a whole, this readjustment will expose the massive LCOE declines of up to 12% across the sector that have been concealed by the economic turmoil of the past two years.”
The report also forecasts:
- Western polysilicon makers OCI and Wacker have long term orders to fulfil. In future, they may transition to higher purities of polysilicon, making it for electronics instead of PV.
- If the US and India remain focused on supporting their local PV manufacturing industry through protectionist measures, they may be able to develop their own polysilicon industry.
South Korea’s Hanwha Q Cells may also make a comeback to the polysilicon business.
The Rethink Energy report can be purchased on its website.