Prices of mono-Si wafers and cells were more stable to some degree in the week of 21 December 2017. Although small- and medium-size suppliers lowered their prices as demand was still sluggish, the price decline began to moderate because product margins are already razor thin. First-tier suppliers of mono-Si products have been the main beneficiaries of the demand in China, India, and Japan. Furthermore, they still have to complete some deferred overseas orders. Therefore, prices of mono-Si products from first-tier suppliers are expected to remain steady to January 2018 as they will continue to process orders until that time.
China has released its 2018 FIT scheme, the US government is expected to make a major announcement on solar trade before the Chinese New Year. The solar PV market will be following closely on the policies of the two countries in the near future.
The polysilicon section of the supply chain has been receiving copious amounts of orders during this December. Prices have also gone up due to occasions of demand outpacing supply. From the production side, issues concerning plant operations (including malfunctioning of the power generation system) have constrained the overall output. From the market side, major suppliers of mono-Si wafers have stepped up their purchases to ensure they have sufficient inventory. Pressures from both ends therefore have tightened the supply. In China, polysilicon prices for clients in the mono-Si and multi-Si markets for the week of 21 December stood around RMB 153-158/kg and 147-154/kg, respectively. Prices of polysilicon outside China (on the international market) were within the range of USD 14.5-18.6/kg.
Market demand has managed to keep prices of multi-Si wafers stable. Wafer suppliers are also switching to diamond wire (DW) slicing, but the production of diamond wire has not been growing at a sufficient pace to keep up with the transition. As wafer suppliers allocate more of their processing capacity to DW slicing, they have found that there is not enough diamond wire available. This has emerged as the main factor behind the recent supply bottleneck for multi-Si wafers.
For week of 21 December, prices from the leading mono-Si wafer suppliers were around RMB 5.3-5.5/pc (or USD 0.71-0.73/pc), while prices from the second-tier suppliers were generally around RMB 5.1-5.3. Some small- and medium-size suppliers of mono-Si wafers had lowered their prices to RMB 4.8-5/pc in order to clear their inventories by the end of the year. Nevertheless, the demand for mono-Si products is rising, so the price trend of mono-Si wafers is expected to be stable in the following week.
Prices of multi-Si cells remained constant this week, whereas prices of mono-Si cells experienced fluctuations. Prices of multi-Si cells from DW-sliced wafers were maintained within RMB 1.66-1.7/W (USD 0.216-0.22/W). Prices of mono-Si PERC cells by contrast had fallen below RMB 1.8/W due to Chinese cell suppliers undercutting each other. In China, prices of mono-Si PERC cells were RMB 1.75-1.9/W in the week of 21 December. Prices of mono-Si PERC cells from Taiwanese suppliers stopped falling and came to USD 0.25-0.265/W during the same period.
Prices were generally stable for modules. To spread the demand over a longer period, major module suppliers have outsourced their orders and will continue with their production until January 2018. On the other hand, the recent wave of demand in China’s distributed generation (DG) market is starting to subside. Medium- and small-size module suppliers are seeing less orders for January and expressing worries about the future of the market. The Chinese government has announced FIT reduction for DG systems starting on 1 January 2018. However, there will be some remnant demand related to China’s FIT market. In addition, there is still some unfulfilled demand related to the objectives of the Top Runner Program for 2017.