The worldwide solar market demand in 2014 was approximately at 44GW, even though the China market did not perform as well as expectations, due to the continuous growth in Japan and the U.S. market, the supply and demand remained stable. At the end of 2014, the overall supply chain maintained a solid utilization rate, while China’s tier-one module manufacturers also continued to break shipment records. Jason Huang, Research Manager at EnergyTrend, a research division of TrendForce, indicates that the 2015 worldwide solar demand is projected at 51.4GW, with the key markets remaining in China, United States, and Japan, taking up 57% of the overall share, yet it is slightly lower than that of 2014. The rise of the emerging markets (the solar installation countries that are out of top 10) has begun to appear starting the second half of 2014. In 2015, the growth momentum of the emerging markets will become more apparent, and the overall demand will surpass 10GW.
2015 Solar Market’s 5 Major Trends as follows:
(1) Polysilicon price to fall again, wafer strives for high efficiency products
Price has always been the market’s most concerned indicator, due to the changes such as the Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties trade issues and supply and demand transitions, the 2014 prices often experienced dramatic fluctuations over a short period of time or within a specific country or region. “Within the overall supply chain price changes, the most significant revisions will most likely to be the polysilicon prices,” Huang indicates. In addition to the major increase in polysilicon production in 2015, China’s anti-dumping and countervailing duties towards Europe, United States and South Korea, suspension of applying handbook for processing trade, expiration of long-term contracts for polysilicon and low-priced polysilicon production increase and other variables can all cause the polysilicon prices to be revised downward significantly. EnergyTrend projects that polysilicon price will fluctuate between US$17-20 throughout the year.
As for the wafers, the mono wafer price will slowly fall to a more reasonable cost-performance ratio as it attempts to increase its market share and competitiveness with the multi wafer products. Due to the strong market demand for super high-efficiency multi wafers, the price is better supported. Regular high-efficiency products prices may continue to fall due to the large number of competitors together with the pressure of the upstream and downstream solar cells and modules.
(2) Solar cell competition intensifies, module profit is expected to increase again
In 2015, solar cell is considered a relatively more challenging part of the supply chain. Even though market demand remains still, due to the effects of oversupply, similarity in efficiency between solar cell makers and greater concentration of downstream module makers, solar cells will face tougher price competition, causing the multi products to enter a loss situation. Only some high-efficiency multi cells or mono cells can maintain a small profit margin. The downstream modules continue with the trend of the greater players remaining strong. Through the rise of emerging markets and downstream’s attention towards positive cycle of quality and branding, the tier-one module makers with stable financial situations will be able to receive more orders. Even though the module prices will continue its downward adjustments, yet together with the improvements in high-efficiency products and materials, EnergyTrend projects that by the end of 2015, the worldwide tier-one module makers’ cost can reach US$0.43/W, and the module maker’s profits will shine even more.
(3) Multi-Si material hits bottleneck, Mono-Si + PERC becomes focal point for next year’s efficiency increase
With the solar cell efficiency increase over the past year or so, the wafers improvements provided greater contribution. However, as the bottleneck for material hits, mono-si has now become the shortcut for breakthroughs. At the same time, the solar cell technology must also follow suit, using PERC technology solar cells is a market-proven method for stable and mass production of high-efficiency products. On the other hand, larger-sized mono-si wafer M1/M2, 4BB (4-busbar)’s application will also increase, in order to obtain higher efficiency. Huang indicates that in 2015, the solar makers will focus on the improvements of P-type mono-si Light Induced Degradation (LID) problem. Though N-type mono-si is one of the highlights of next year’s global exhibits, it is still considered as an application for niche markets at the moment, having small changes in terms of its position in overall market share.
(4) 2015 top ten module makers take up over 50%, top 5 module shipment at 3.5GW threshold
In 2014, the top 3 solar makers, Trina, Yingli and Jinko all had the opportunity to surpass the 3GW shipment threshold. The total shipment volume from top 10 module maker takes up 50% of the global market share, marking a continuous increase from the 46% in 2013. In 2015, a single maker may break the shipment record of more than 5GW. Therefore, in order to be in one of the top 5 module makers, the shipment must achieve at least 3.5GW. On the other hand, as the China market continues to expand, the rise of emerging markets and other structural changes, China makers will take up more than 7 spots among the world’s top 10 solar company ranking.
(5) With 3 major variables: trade war, financial policies and electric grid development, global strategy diffuses the operational risks
The trade wars among the countries remain the greatest variable that would affect the worldwide solar supply chain. Therefore, whether to increase overseas production locations or countries for shipments are both the basic means through which solar companies maintain their competitiveness. In addition to the trade wars, the demand-side is also affected by each country’s economy, financial policies and electric grid company’s operational attitude. The rise and fall of the major solar countries were all due to the factors above, causing a large scale decrease in a short period of time. Thus, spreading out the management and sales and expanding to the emerging markets will be the collective activities within the solar industry in 2015. This is the most stable way to lower the fluctuations in each country and region and maintaining a winning chance.
(Photo Credit: Walmart via Flickr)