Polycrystalline silicon Market Overview

Polycrystalline silicon is a highly purified and crystalline form of silicon that is mainly manufactured by chemical purification process from metallurgical grade silicon. Distillation of volatile silicon compounds and their decomposition into silicon at high temperatures is the key function of the process. Due to advancement of technology, newer and improved processes are being developed as an alternative to this method which is called as fluidized bed reactor. The key challenge in manufacturing polycrystalline silicon is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the resource consumption in the application by reducing the use of materials, improved cell concept, and advancements in manufacturing the product application. Polycrystlline silicon is majorly used in manufacturing solar cells and significantly used in manufacturing integrated circuits and other semiconductor devices. According to European Photovoltaic Association, the global photovoltaic capacity installed annually 50.6 Gegawatts with an annual growth of 25% in 2015. The high growth global market for the photovoltaic is fueling the market for polycrystalline silicon as they provide highest energy conversion efficiency of about 25%. Polycrystalline silicon plays a key role in the solar photovoltaic cells market.

Global Polycrystalline silicon Taxonomy

The global Polycrystalline silicon market is classified on the basis of the following segments:

  • By form
    • Chunks
    • Granules
    • Rods
  • By purity
    • 4N
    • 6N
    • 9N
    • 11N
  • By application
    • Solar photovoltaic
      • Mono-crystalline Solar Panels
      • Multi-crystalline Solar Panels
    • Electronics

Prevalent Scenario in Polycrystalline Silicon Market

The rapid growth of solar photovoltaic industry and high growth electronics industry are the main drivers for the polycrystalline market. The recent past has witnessed rapid growth in consumer inclination towards renewable energy sources such as solar. Also, the government policies for reducing carbon footprints, United Nations Conference on Climate change, and increasing awareness about the green energy concept is augmenting demand for polycrystalline silicon into manufacturing of solar panels. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global PV sector is projected to grow at a rate of 25% annually. Moreover, polycrystalline silicon represents 80 to 90% of the global PV market. The key manufacturers are investing into research and development to offer a range of products with significant increase in its performance and at low costs. They are increasingly focusing on expanding their existing capacities to cater to the rising demand for solar panels. The polycrystalline silicon used for electronic applications is more pure form and hence is priced high as compared to PV grade polycrystalline silicon. It is deposited on the semiconductor wafer using Czochralski or float zone process. Chinese manufacturers are focusing on capturing the electronics market for polycrystalline silicon along with the solar panel market. Also, China, Japan, India, and South Korea are exhibiting high GDP growth rates, coupled with increasing demand for consumer goods, which is indirectly creating a potential opportunities for polycrystalline market growth in these countries. Also, higher import duties levied on the American manufacturers have benefited the Chinese manufacturers to capture the Asia-Pacific market for polycrystalline silicon. The technological challenges and high capital investments acts as key restraints for the market.  However, the major players are focusing on forward integration with the photovoltaic manufacturers and the electronic manufacturers to gain advantage over the investments and the changing prices trend of the raw materials.

Fragmented Market

The global polycrystalline silicon market is highly fragmented due to the presence of many established and local players across the world. Major players involved in the market include GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Limited (Hong Kong), Wacker Chemie AG (Germany), OCI Company Ltd. (South Korea), REC Silicon ASA (Norway), Tokuyama Corporation (Japan), Daqo New Energy Corp. (China), Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation (U.S.), SunEdison, Inc. (U.S.), Woongjin Polysilicon Co. Ltd. (Korea), and Active Solar Energietechnik GmbH (Austria).

Key takeaways of the market

  • In October 2019, three biggest polysilicon manufacturers in the U.S. named Hemlock Semiconductor Operations (HSC), REC Silicon and WACKER POLYSILICON called meeting with U.S. House Manufacturing Caucus to propose more programs & incentives to develop & strengthen U.S. solar supply chain. Also, these industries called to expand federal solar tax credit for U.S. polysilicon industry.
  • In September 2019, Daqo New Energy Corporation, a leading producer of high quality polysilicon, begun pilot production at new phase 4A polysilicon in Shihezi, Xinjiang. This new facility increased total production capacity to 70,000 Metric Tons per year. Moreover, the company is aiming to reduce the production cost of polysilicon to US$ 6.8/Kg by first quarter of 2020.
  • In October 2018, GCL-Poly Energy Holdings expanded production capacity of polysilicon to 60,000 Metric Tons per year in China. The expansion was done to reduce dependency on polysilicon import and to meet long term outlook for silicon solar technology in China.
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