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Business | April 11, 2012

Solar manufacturers: Lesson learned

Lesson learned, solar manufacturers no longer slashing price to bring In orders.
According to EnergyTrend, a research division of TrendForce, slowed demand on the German market, the uncertainty towards the future market in Italy, and unclear demand in other regions has resulted in fewer deals on the spot market. However, the situation is an improvement over last year – as manufacturers are no longer blindly slashing price to bring in orders, spot price is stable.

Related vendors indicate, with the current price trend, it is unlikely that wafer and solar cell makers will be able to avoid losses – thus, minimizing losses is the issue at hand. Manufacturers point out the lesson learned last year: when demand is weak, steep price cuts will not necessarily secure orders, and may even bring high risk to all manufacturers’ operations.

TrendForce indicates, during China’s mini Golden Week in early April, many Chinese manufacturers went to Taiwan to negotiate outsourced orders. Most manufacturers are setting last year’s prices as their low – currently there has been no news of makers agreeing to orders at rates lower than last year’s, resulting in a repeat of an unfortunate situation: the more produced, the more losses suffered.

As the rapidly declining price approaches last year's low and market demand in sluggish, before Italy's subsidy cuts are finalized and there is a rush to install, the outlook for the solar industry is gloomy. TrendForce interviews indicate, the European market is waiting for the final decision on Italy's solar policy, while manufacturers for the North American market indicate that the proportion of China's manufacturing outsourced to Taiwan is currently low.

The Chinese makers are maintaining shipment flexibility in preparation by outsourcing a portion of production for upcoming changes. As the U.S. anti-dumping decision and Italy's new subsidy policy will be revealed in Q2, TrendForce expects more changes will take place in the second half of April.

As for this week’s spot prices, although market demand continues to be sluggish, polysilicon makers are asking clients to fulfill their contracts. Therefore, wafer and solar cell manufacturers continue to clear excess materials. However, due to inventory stocking costs, selling price has not changed much.

This week’s lowest polysilicon price stayed at US$22/kg, while ASP fell to US$23.74/kg, a decrease of 0.25%. In terms of silicon wafers, buying momentum has clearly decreased on the multi-Si wafer market, but Chinese manufacturers have maintained high capacity utilization rates, resulting in a significant decrease in this week’s spot prices.

Average multi-Si wafer price fell to US$1.081/piece, a 1.99% decrease, while average mono-Si wafer price was flat. As for solar cells, since manufacturers have not cut price to bring in orders, this week’s prices changed only slightly. Average solar cell price was US$0.475/Watt, a decrease of 0.42%.

With regard to solar modules, affected by significantly reduced price quotes on the China market, this week’s solar module price showed significant adjustments. Solar module price fell below the US$0.8/Watt mark, arriving at US$0.788/Watt, a decrease of 4.14%. Impacted by the solar module price decline, thin film price fell as well, arriving at US$0.761/Watt, a 3.43% decrease.

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