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Solar panel makers hit by shortage of key material

NEW YORK: Solar manufacturers are being battered by higher costs and smaller margins after an unexpected shortage of a critical raw material.

Prices of polysilicon, the main component of photovoltaic cells, spiked as much as 35% in the past four months after environmental regulators in China shut down several factories.

That is driving up production costs as panel prices continue to decline, and dragging down earnings for manufacturers in China, the world’s biggest supplier.

Canadian Solar Inc and Hanwha Q Cells Co have already reported steep declines in profit, and other companies will probably be affected as well, including JA Solar Holdings Co, which reports results Wednesday, and JinkoSolar Holding Co, the biggest publicly traded panel producer

“There’s just not enough polysilicon in China,” said Carter Driscoll, an analyst who covers solar companies for FBR & Co. “If prices don’t come down, it will crush margins.”

The price spike came after an environmental crackdown in China coincided with an annual lull in polysilicon output, according to Jenny Chase, head solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Refiners in China typically cut back polysilicon production during the summer for routine maintenance.

Solar manufacturers anticipate the seasonal slowdown, but it was exacerbated this year when China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection shut down several plants that make metallurgical silicon, a partially refined polysilicon that other companies further purify for use in solar cells.

The two events led to a polysilicon shortage that drove prices in China from US$14 to $19 a kilogramme over the past four months, according to Guelph, Ontario-based Canadian Solar, which has most of its manufacturing in China.

“We didn’t expect the polysilicon price to go so high inside China and nobody expected it,” Chief Executive Shawn Qu said on a Nov 9 call with analysts. The second-biggest solar company’s gross margin slumped to 17.5% in the third quarter, from 24.2% in the second quarter, and its net income was less than half what analysts were expecting.

Cost ‘Challenge’

International trade disputes have made it difficult for Chinese manufacturers to look elsewhere for cheaper polysilicon, Driscoll said. Four years ago, China imposed steep tariffs on high-quality polysilicon imported from the US and South Korea, essentially forcing companies to buy locally.

“The elevated polysilicon prices will be a challenge for the group in China,” said Jeffrey Osborne, an analyst at Cowen & Co. “What happens next year is unclear given demand dynamics early in the year relative to the pace of additional supply coming online in China.”

Polysilicon is a semiconducting material refined from quartzite, a dense rock created when sandstone is crushed between tectonic plates. China-based companies including GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd and Xinte Energy Co bake the material in giant ovens and treat it with chemicals until it condenses into ingots of near-pure polysilicon. Those ingots are sliced into wafers using diamond-edged saws, and then cut into squares to make solar cells that transform sunlight into electricity.

Third-quarter net income at Hanwha fell 88% from a year earlier to $5 million, in part because of “downward pressure on gross margin, caused primarily by increasing wafer prices”, the South Korea-based company said Nov 10.

JA Solar declined to discuss the issue until after its third-quarter results are released this week. JinkoSolar, which has not set a date to issue its results, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Polysilicon prices vary by region. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance index of average global spot prices shows polysilicon climbed to $15.80 a kilogramme in October, the highest since July 2016. That’s well below the record set in 2008, when the solar industry first began to boom and prices spiked to $475 a kilogramme.

Solar companies’ exposure to prices will vary, in part depending on the length of their supply contracts. Canadian Solar, for instance, had access to a limited supply of low-priced polysilicon during the third quarter, thanks to contracts signed at the end of June. That’s no longer the case.

“I think in the long term things will balance, but we don’t have direct control of those raw materials, unfortunately,” Qu said. “I hope this is as high as it can go.”

This post has been published: www.bangkokpost.com

On Grid and Off Grid Explained

On Grid – Save Money

ongrid systeml

All on grid systems worldwide require a working grid connection to function. In case of a powercut, the system will not function for safety reasons.


On Grid Plus – Save Money + Power Cut Protection

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This is on grid but with the benefit of battery backup to protect against power cuts. During a power cut you have power in the batteries sufficient to run a cut-down list of the appliances in your house for a period of time.


Off Grid – Power Anywhere anytime!

offgrid system

Off Grid systems are for places with no possible connection to the grid.

 

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News

Solar panel makers hit by shortage of key material

15 November 2017

Solar panel makers hit by shortage of key material NEW YORK: Solar manufacturers are being battered by higher costs and smaller margins after an unexpected shortage of a critical raw material. Prices of polysilicon, the main component of photovoltaic cells,...

Solar cars begin race across Australian desert

Solar cars begin race across Australian desert

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3D-printed solar panels are the key to green energy in developing countries

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Gamesa secures début order for its G126-2.625 MW turbine: it will supply 52.5 MW in Thailand

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Gamesa, a global technology leader in wind energy, continues to shore up its sales and product strategy, having secured the first order for its new turbine, the G126-2.625 MW, a product which delivers maximum output in low wind speed conditions....

Thailand Renewables Report Q1 2017

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New feed-in-tariff for small power producers

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Chiang Rai to promote alternative energy to achieve farming cost reductions

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29 August 2016

BANGKOK, 28 August 2016 — The province of Chiang Rai has been promoting the use of alternative energy to help achieve a sustainable reduction in farming costs.  Deputy Governor of Chiang Rai , Prajon Prajsakul chaired a seminar on Saturday...

The comeback of the sun: The solar rooftop projects

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Thailand has a high potential to finance rooftop solar facilities in Thailand and to provide the customer with the panels, know how and infrastructure to accomplish the construction by a one-stop-shopping solution. Such business model can be limited to facilitate the self-consumption of...

THE COMEBACK OF THE SUN - THAILAND II: THE PROJECTS

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This post informs about projects in the solar industry with a focus on foreign investment opportunities. Updated project information and an overview about Thailand's regulatory framework can be found at http://pugnatorius.com/solar/  Here you find historical information about (i) the delayed Agro-Solar Project 2015/2016, (ii)...

Seraphim Attended Symposium on New Testing Standards of Solar Module and Materials organized by TÜV SÜD

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Recently, as one of the first companies applying the new testing standards, Seraphim was invited to the symposium on new standards of solar module and materials organized by TÜV SÜD. TÜV SÜD is a worldwide professional 3rd-party testing body, and...

Seraphim Solar Launches Higher Efficiency Module "Eclipse" Globally

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