Japanese polysilicon supplier problems put SunPower on potential supply search

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Reddit
Email

SunPower has said that after talks with its various Japanese-based suppliers, none have sustained major damage to their facilities, though “certain operations are currently disrupted due to infrastructure issues,” the company stated.

PV-Tech has highlighted that rolling blackouts have been implemented in the areas electricity is supplied by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), covering Tokyo, Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama and Yamanashi prefectures.

Though this has limited impact on cell and module operations in Japan, also largely unaffected by the earthquake – production of polysilicon and ingots is highly unlikely to be restarted in prefectures expected to suffer rolling blackouts.

However, PV-Tech has received reports that polysilicon producer, M.Setek has been impacted by the disaster with a plant affected by the tsunami, causing damage to facilities and equipment, though it should be noted that specifics and secondary confirmations are not yet forthcoming. 

According to a research note from Jeffries International, M.Setek’s plant in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture and its proximity to Sendai (major tsumani impact zone), had been damaged and that it was making the assumption that the Soma plant would not be in production for the remainder of 2011. The prefecture is also at the centre of the TEPCO operated nuclear power station that has three reactors in potential meltdown with a 20km exclusion zone now in operation.

SunPower did specifically note in its statement that polysilicon supplies from Japan accounted for less than 10% of its total needs for the second quarter of 2011, without mentioning supplier names. Jeffries noted that M.Setek was believed to be a supplier to SunPower.

However, SunPower also noted that it, “would seek to replace any polysilicon from alternate sources to the extent events in Japan warrant such action.”

As a result, SunPower said that it didn’t expect any change in its 2011 production guidance.

Another polysilicon producer, SUMCO has two plants in the north east region but as yet there has been no official statement from SUMCO regarding any possible disruptions to supply.

The Jeffries research note also noted that another major Japanese polysilicon producer, Shin-Etsu had closed three semiconductor wafer plants and had 35%+ share of worldwide semiconductor wafer market.

As M.Setek has only released minimal information concerning disruptions, via its majority shareholder, AUO of Taiwan, SunPower may have covered itself as to the real issue by specifically mentioning polysilicon but didn’t  reveal exact details, due to its supplier yet to specifically provide more detailed information on whether its plant in Soma has suffered longer-term issues.

AUO said previously in a statement that, “According to latest understanding for the time being, all employees and facilities remain safe and no major damage incurred by the earthquake and tsunami is reported. As to when the facilities resume operations will depend on the recovery status of the local infrastructure.”

Jeffries noted that any polysilicon/wafer supply issues in Japan would have minimal impact on the PV industry due to the current availability and multiple sources of supply. 

With most PV suppliers in Japan having given some detail on the initial impact from the natural disaster attention is focused on supply constraints over the coming months, not least from energy supply constraints rather than general infrastructure issues as the majority of PV producers have limited exposure to the problems faced in the north east prefectures.
 

29 November 2022
PV ModuleTech EMEA in Malaga on 29-30 November 2022 will address the factors underpinning the changing PV module landscape, gathering together all the key stakeholders across the value-chain from module production to field testing. Join us for presentations from the leading players in the sector, clearly identifying the opportunities and challenges set to impact module supply to Europe and the Middle-East over the next few years.
7 December 2022
Intersolar is the world’s leading exhibition & conference series for the solar industry. As part of this event series, Intersolar India in Gujarat is India’s most pioneering exhibition and conference for India’s solar industry. It takes place annually and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. Since 2019, Intersolar India is held under the umbrella of The smarter E India – India’s innovation hub for the new energy world.
14 February 2023
Intersolar North America (ISNA) and Energy Storage North America (ESNA) is the premier US-based conference and trade show focused on solar, energy storage, and EV charging infrastructure. Dedicated to accelerating the energy transition, the combined event delivers actionable education, invaluable networking, and an immersive expo hall experience.
22 February 2023
After a record breaking year at the Energy Storage Summit, join us next year at the 8th edition in 2023 where we are expanding in line with the increased opportunity across the renewable sector. As we see this continued growth of the industry through change in government policy, increased capital and a need for grid resilience in geographies with high renewable penetration, can the necessary scale be met across the value chain in order to meet net-zero goals in Europe? We will gather industry leaders across the sector to discuss a range of vital topics including the most lucrative markets for storage and what the best route to market strategy is for your storage asset, changes needed in policy and infrastructure, as well as the effects of the supply crisis, disruptive technologies and much more.
14 March 2023
PV CellTech will be return to Berlin on 14-15 March 2023 and looking at the competing technologies and roadmaps for PV cell mass production during 2024-2026.
21 March 2023
Large Scale Solar Summit is the meeting place for European solar developers, EPCs and IPPs. Designed to look into ground-mount PV, solar + storage, green hydrogen, floating solar and large scale commercial rooftop. With around 300 attendees expected, this is the place to exchange ideas and knowledge, expand your network and win new business.

Read Next

PV Tech Premium
November 28, 2022
With a growing wait-and-see sentiment emerging in the market, the prices of silicon wafers and silicon material at the upstream end have started showing signs of falling.
November 25, 2022
IDB Invest and South American financial group Bancolombia will provide developer Solarpack with a COP656 billion (US$133 million) loan to support the development of two solar PV projects in Colombia.
November 25, 2022
Finnish investment company Korkia has funded a partnership with Greek developers GH Energy and AA Sunshine to develop solar power parks in mainland Greece and Crete.
PV Tech Premium
November 25, 2022
PV Tech Premium caught up with Gyanesh Chaudhary, vice-chairman and managing director at Indian PV module manufacturer Vikram Solar, which has a 2.5GW annual production capacity, to discuss the thinking behind the ALMM and PLI schemes and whether ingot and wafer production is realistic in India.
November 25, 2022
Ukrainian energy company DTEK has said it is ready to restart operations at the 10MW Tryfonivska solar power plant in the liberated Kherson region.
November 25, 2022
JinkoSolar, the global PV manufacturer, will supply approximately 522MW of its Tiger Neo 78 Cell modules to the Brazilian Santa Luzia utility PV project, one of the largest in the country.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
November 29, 2022
Malaga, Spain
Solar Media Events
February 22, 2023
Leonardo Royal Hotel London Tower Bridge
Solar Media Events
March 14, 2023
Berlin, Germany
Solar Media Events
March 21, 2023
Lisbon, Portugal
Solar Media Events
June 6, 2023
Napa, USA