GCL Tech Co-CEO Tianshi Lan met with TaiyangNews Managing Director Michael Schmela for an exclusive interview during SNEC Conference & Exhibition 2023 in China’s Shanghai as part of TaiyangNews & SNEC Solar Leadership Conversations (click on photo to watch video).
Representing a global leader in silicon production and the Chinese company that produces fluidized bed reactor (FBR) granular silicon for the global PV industry, GCL Tech moved from modified Siemens technology which continues to dominate the industry to date.
Difference between modified Siemens & FBR
Lan explained that FBR method is easy for continuous feeding for the furnaces so it is a closed loop production process reducing contamination to a great extent, whereas under the modified Siemens method, the silicon is first crunched into chunks and then fed into furnaces which may compromise its purity. Hence, Lan said it makes sense to move away from modified Siemens.
Apart from GCL, only REC Silicon is doing FBR technology in current times. Eventually, FBR will take over the market claims Lan who sees it evolving in terms of efficiency, cost and purity.
Lan shared GCL Tech currently has an annual production capacity of 400,000 tons of FBR polysilicon in China. It plans to add another 100,000 tons to 120,000 tons in China. Right now, it is prioritizing manufacturing expansion outside of China since some 70% of Chinese polysilicon capacity is dedicated to global markets at present.
At the same time, Lan pointed out the efforts for local PV industrialization efforts in various countries which makes sense to expand outside China. Within the next 1 to 2 years, GCL Tech will establish FBR manufacturing bases beyond China according to its current plans.
Since FBR polysilicon production requires less land so the capex is low and so is energy consumption compared to the modified Siemens method.
The next question that follows is of course the geographical location for such a plant to which Lan said it is extremely difficult to find a site anywhere in the world that has such a huge amount of energy supply to suffice Siemens method without making additional expenditure. But the same doesn’t impact FBR since the energy consumption is so much less so the options are more. Similarly, a modified Siemens factory requires a lot of steel to build, but FBR fab requires less steel and is easier to expand.
Since labor costs are also to be factored in when going outside China, Lan said high level of automation in a FBR plant means savings on this component. For instance, for 10,000 tons of FBR, only 60 people are needed for its operations, so it is much less than for the Siemens method.
In times of massive manufacturing capacity expansion announcements being made by various component suppliers of late, Lan opined that there is likely to be oversupply in some places in the market. For polysilicon manufacturing that’s a chemical process and the factory needs to run at 100% utilization. In case of oversupply, it will impact polysilicon production.
Having said that, Lan batted for FBR technology saying it is more resilient to price drop of polysilicon. Also, if the technology doesn’t require high energy, then your costs are also less since there will be a difference of as much as 30% in this space.
As the market will need modules with lower carbon footprint in the near future, GCL Tech stands to gain with its low energy consumption FBR.
Complete interview with GCL Tech Co-CEO Tianshi Lan can be accessed on TaiyangNews YouTube Channel.