PV Price Watch: new polysilicon capacity ‘not needed’ as its price drops to US$7.2/kg

Both p-type and n-type polysilicon materials have seen a decrease in price in the week beginning 1 April

Although polysilicon mono-dense had stabilised at an average price of RMB58/kg (US$8.01/kg) at the end of January, according to data from both EnergyTrend and Shanghai Metals Market (SMM), its price hit a new low in the week beginning 1 April 2024 to RMB52/kg.

The price decrease for n-type polysilicon is even bigger, with a drop of RMB8 from the previous week for the average price from EnergyTrend, and sits at RMB60/kg as shown in the chart below.

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N-type polysilicon price decreased to between RMB60-62.5/kg. Chart: Jonathan Touriño Jacobo for PV Tech

The week-on-week decrease means that, currently, the price of p-type polysilicon material is lower than the historical low of US$6.75/kg reached in June 2020, according to Johannes Bernreuter, head of polysilicon market analyst firm Bernreuter Research, who tells PV Tech that n-type has “undercut the low end of our forecast for the first half of 2024 of US$7.85/kg”.

The price gap between p-type and n-type polysilicon materials has significantly reduced after it started to widen at the beginning of the year.

Bernreuter expects p-type polysilicon price to drop below US$6/kg, without the added-value tax. Chart: Jonathan Touriño Jacobo for PV Tech

Despite the p-type price falling below the historical low reached in June 2020, Bernreuter expects the p-type price to drop even further and go below US$6/kg, without the added-value tax, saying that the price for n-type will be dependent on when vertically integrated solar manufacturer Tongwei brings online its polysilicon capacity.

“If it’s delayed then the price might only lose a little bit. If it goes the factory comes on stream in the second quarter then the price should go down,” says Berneuter. Chinese polysilicon manufacturer Daqo New Energy is also expected to begin initial production of its new Inner Mongolia 5B facility in Q2 2024, adding 100,000MT of annual nameplate capacity.

“As the available supply of n-type material increases, customers wouldn’t have to resort to p-type material or high-quality p-type material as a replacement for the n-type material. That would then reduce the demand for p-type material and send the price for p-type material down below US$6/kg,” explains Bernreuter.

New entrants and falling wafer prices

With companies such as Tongwei and Daqo New Energy expected to commission more capacity this year, the industry is poised to end with an oversupply of 1.4 million tonnes of polysilicon this year, as a report from Bernreuter Research in November highlighted.

Bernreuter says that new entrants have delayed the startup of new facilities, with many likely to end up as stranded investments. “There is so much new capacity that the capacity of new entrants is basically not needed. And even those of smaller and medium manufacturers will probably disappear from the market,” adds Bernreuter.

Along with a price drop for both p-type and n-type polysilicon, wafer prices have also decreased, week-on-week, with 182mm size n-type wafers reaching an average price of RMB1.6/kg, according to EnergyTrend.

According to InfoLink Consulting, manufacturers have started planning for production cuts this week, although the timeframe necessary for the change to happen will have limited impact into the capacity available in the market until mid- to late-April. Due to the current production plans, wafer prices are expected to continue decreasing in the short-term, added InfoLink.

Prices for p-type and n-type wafers have also declined week-on-week across the board. Chart: Jonathan Touriño Jacobo for PV Tech

‘It’s going to be much harder to sell mono-PERC in this market’

In the US, module prices have seen “significant” price declines across the board, according to Mike Hall, CEO at Anza, a data and technology procurement marketplace for solar and energy storage in the US.

“In aggregate, the median price dropped 31% or 12.3 cents between March 2023 and February 2024,” says Hall, adding that the price drop also happened across all technologies, as well as for tier one and non-tier one manufacturers.

Hall explains the price decline is due to an excess inventory, both from buyers and sellers, which in itself was caused by the moratorium from US President Joe Biden for solar panels that is set to end in June 2024. “When the moratorium came, everybody was in a rush to get supply. And what that led to was very long lead times and high prices. Prices were going up, while lead times were long. What happened was buyers bought more than a year in advance,” adds Hall.

This excess inventory in the past year did not only happen in the utility-scale market, but also for residential and commercial, which dragged on pricing for utility-scale and resulted in the module price decrease.

Technology-wise, Hall mentions that the emergence of TOPCon (tunnel oxide passivated contact) modules in the market put pressure on the price for mono-PERC (passivated emitter and rear cell) modules as its market share declined.

“We are still seeing PERC transactions, but it’s fair to say the PERC market share is declining fast. We see an environment where TOPCon product is becoming more abundant, more available and prices are low across the board and generally lower than the budgets developers were carrying,” adds Hall.

In the period during March 2023 and February 2024, mono-PERC prices have dropped by 28%, while TOPCon module prices have decreased by 25%. “In six months to a year from now, it’s going to be much harder to sell mono-PERC in this market,” concludes Hall.

30 May 2024
11am (CEST)
Astronergy has introduced its latest module product series, ASTRO N7 and ASTRO N7s, both of which utilise rectangular wafers. ASTRO N7, based on the 210mm*182mm wafer, is specifically tailored for utility-scale systems. It features dimensions of 2382mm*1134mm and a 66-cell layout design that effectively lowers Voc and increases string size. This design feature significantly reduces tracker and cable costs, leading to a reduction in LCOE by 0.44% to 4.37% compared to 182mm-wafer TOPCon modules. Furthermore, ASTRO N7 incorporates advanced cell and module technologies such as laser-induced firing, super multi-busbar, light-redirecting film, and double-layer coating glass to enhance module power output and reliability. Join us to explore the latest advances in module technology and how they can improve module performance and learn about the economic advantage of rectangular-wafer modules and their benefits at a system level.
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PV Tech has been running an annual PV CellTech Conference since 2016. PV CellTech USA, on 8-9 October 2024 is our second PV CellTech conference dedicated to the U.S. manufacturing sector. The event in 2023 was a sell out success and 2024 will once again gather the key stakeholders from PV manufacturing, equipment/materials, policy-making and strategy, capital equipment investment and all interested downstream channels and third-party entities. The goal is simple: to map out PV manufacturing in the U.S. out to 2030 and beyond.
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