Expansion of silicon production leads to price drop

TrendForce reports that since March, silicon producers have been striving to increase shipments in order to alleviate inventory pressure. Unfortunately, their production capacity continues to expand, while silicon wafer makers struggle to absorb excess inventory.

Estimated price of solar energy materials (CNY)

Material (unit)TypeMay (price)April (price)MoM
Polysilicon (kg)182194-62%
Silicon Wafer (slice)M106.256.3-0.8%
Solar cell (watt)M101.041.08-3.7%
Solar module (watt)M10 mono module1.651.72-4.1%
G12 mono module1.671.74-4.0%
Trend Force

This imbalance has led to a gradual and persistent decline in prices. The lowest quoted price has already dipped to CNY 180/kg (USD 26.10), with average market transaction prices hovering around CNY 190/kg. TrendForce predicts that silicon prices will continue to fall in April and May, driven by an expansion in silicon capacity in 2Q23.

The recent fluctuations in wafer prices can be traced back to multiple consecutive weeks of falling silicon prices. However, an influx of imported sand has temporarily mitigated concerns over quartz sand shortages, enabling silicon wafer enterprises to boost their operating rates. As inventory levels rise, the overall transaction prices of silicon wafers are beginning to return to normal levels. Still, despite the accelerated growth in production capacity and the ongoing decline in silicon prices, silicon wafer prices may fall. The anticipated monthly decrease for M10 and G12 silicon wafers is projected to be 0.8% and 1.2%, respectively.

The utilisation rate of solar cells has consistently remained high in April, largely driven by growth in operation rate and the release of new production capacity. The market supply and demand for 210 cells continue to be tight, resulting in higher prices compared to 182 cells. Although production for N-type cells has recently come online, growth remains limited, causing a significant price difference when compared to P-type cells. TrendForce anticipates that cell prices will start to decline towards the end of April, primarily due to several factors: a continuous decrease in polysilicon prices, the loosening of silicon wafer prices, and the efforts of module producers to cut costs.

The profit margin for solar modules has been largely diverted to the silicon wafer and cell segments – despite the price of silicon falling below CNY 200/kg (USD 29) – resulting in little change in the transaction price of solar modules at around CNY 1.75/watt (USD 0.25). However, some suppliers have dropped prices to below CNY 1.7/watt in an effort to boost sales. TrendForce anticipates solar module prices to return to normal levels by the third quarter at an estimated price of around CNY 1.6/watt.