Balanced polysilicon market seen this year

08:47, January 11, 2011      

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China's polysilicon market will be balanced in 2011 despite imports of the material, which is a main ingredient of solar panels, surging to a record in November 2010, an industry analyst said.

China imported 6,153 tons of polysilicon in November, a rise of 159.8 percent year-on-year and 45 percent month-on-month, according to the latest statistics from the General Administration of Customs. Over the first 11 months of last year, China imported a total of 41,898 metric tons, and it is estimated that imports during the entire year will exceed 45,000 tons.

In 2009, the country imported 20,000 metric tons of polysilicon.

The surge in November imports offset a sharp decline in domestic production from October onwards, as Chinese producers shut down some capacity to conduct maintenance and also because of high costs for natural gas and electricity.

However, market demand may slow this year while some planned capacity will be in operation in the second half of the year, according to Li Shengmao, an industry analyst at China Investment Consulting.

"Global solar industry growth will slow down to 30 percent in 2011, from the doubling rate last year," said Li.

China's polysilicon output reached 110,000 metric tons in 2010, but only a small proportion of the products are of the high purity level that can meet the requirements of photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers, according to China Investment Consulting.

To ensure the supply of high-quality materials, some PV makers have already started extending into the upstream polysilicon production business.

LDK Solar, the world's largest manufacturer of solar wafers by capacity, is also a leading producer of high-purity polysilicon.

The company's polysilicon capacity will reach 15,000 metric tons in 2011 from 11,000 tons in 2010, which, according to the company, is only sufficient to meet its own demand.

Domestic demand totaled 70,000 tons in 2010.

Polysilicon was considered an oversupply industry as of September 2009. China's completed projects reached 44,000 tons, under-construction projects accounted for 68,000 tons, and planned projects accounted for 126,700 tons, according to Wang Bohua, deputy counselor of the Ministry for Industry and Information Technology.

China decided to impose entry standards to restrict new polysilicon projects with annual capacity of less than 3,000 tons and high power consumption, after industry output skyrocketed by 300 percent in 2009.

China Daily
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