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Electronics Production | January 11, 2012

Downstream solar cell makers bide time

Due to continual orders from North American regions, solar cell makers’ capacity utilization rate has increased in January.
Additionally, the end of holiday vacations brings more price inquiries from European clients, increasing trading activity on the market. According to EnergyTrend, a research division of TrendForce, as order visibility has increased and supply has tightened due to the transition of demand to high efficiency products, suppliers are gradually regaining the upper-hand in terms of prices. In consideration of the current supply and demand situation as well as the price trend, 1Q12 price will see incremental price increases.

EnergyTrend has confirmed the rising polysilicon price trend. According to EnergyTrend, many top-tier makers have already concluded Q1 contract price negotiations. Currently, only a few companies are still discussing details. In terms of contract price, makers have sold at prices of around $28-30/kg for priority clients, and US$30-40/kg for others.

High-efficiency Si wafer demand remains strong, but currently only a portion of wafer makers are able to provide products with over 17% conversion efficiency. According to EnergyTrend, some Si wafer makers have already sold all of their January production and are engaging in price negotiations for February, a clear indication that high-efficiency products will remain in tight supply in the short term.

Although Taiwanese solar cell makers’ capacity utilization rate has seen significant increases due to the influx of North American orders, EnergyTrend research indicates that most orders are large-scale solar system contracts. In consideration of overall costs and IRR (internal rate of return), currently demand for high efficiency products is not high, with standard products accounting for most of demand.

Therefore, downstream solar cell and module makers are mostly quoting flat prices – prices have only been increased for a portion of high efficiency products, in order to test out the market. Furthermore, Chinese makers are still mainly providing standard products and quoting flat prices, resulting in a price trend discrepancy when it comes to different product quality.

EnergyTrend believes that unless the market sees a major change, based on the currently supply and demand status, in 1Q12 high efficiency products will see a gradual rise in price, while standard product price will stay flat.

As for this week’s spot prices, lowest polysilicon price increased slightly, to US$23/kg. Affected by the slight market recovery, average polysilicon price increased by 7.81% to US$27.06/kg – the largest price increase in the past few months. As for Si wafers, lowest prices stayed flat; US$1.0/piece and US$1.50/piece for multi-Si and mono-Si wafers, respectively.

This week’s average multi-Si wafer price increased by 0.53% to $1.148/piece. According to EnergyTrend, the Chinese market currently consists most of standard products, as Chinese makers are behind their Taiwanese counterparts in terms of high efficiency product development; this has pulled average multi-Si wafer price down. Average mono-Si wafer price has also fallen slightly, by 0.57% to a US$1.559/piece.

This week’s average solar cell price increased slightly to US$0.512/Watt, up by 1.39%. Module prices stayed flat. Related vendors indicate, as currently everyone is experiencing losses still, if upstream price continues to rise, shipment price may see appropriate adjustments in the future.

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