NPD Solarbuzz has reported solar photovoltaic wafer production is forecast to grow by 19% in 2013, passing 30 GW and recovering to the 2011 level. However, industry utilization is expected to remain below 60%, and while prices have stopped falling, no significant increases are expected, so profitability for wafer makers will remain challenging, adds NPD Solarbuzz.
Further analysis shared by NPD Solarbuzz includes:
Multicrystalline silicon (multi c-Si) technology is forecast to continue its dominance of the wafer market in the short to mid-term. However, the higher efficiency solar cells that can be produced using monocrystalline silicon (mono c-Si) wafers continue to be in demand for applications where space is restricted. The higher efficiencies enable pricing at a premium over standard multi c-Si modules. In particular, rapid growth in the Japanese market is creating demand for premium efficiency modules that use mono c-Si wafers.
Figure 1: Crystalline Silicon (c-Si) Wafer Production Forecast by Technology
Source: NPD Solarbuzz Q1’13 Polysilicon and Wafer Supply Chain Quarterly
“Supported by attractive solar PV incentive rates, Japan will account for more than 10% of global PV demand in 2013,” stated Charles Annis, Vice President at NPD Solarbuzz. “With a strong rooftop segment and limitations on the availability of land for large-scale ground-mount installations, Japan has now become a key driver for mono c-Si based modules.”
However, for mono c-Si wafers to increase market share compared to multi c-Si wafers, improvements in mono ingot production and module efficiencies will be required. Annis added: “Multi c-Si wafer manufacturers are constantly improving casting approaches and developing new high-efficiency multi-wafers. Leading wafer manufacturers are now selling high-efficiency multi c-Si wafers with efficiencies as high as 18%, which is in the range of low end mono c-Si wafers, and thus helps maintain the competitiveness of multi c-Si based products.”
In the long term, n-type mono c-Si wafers and enhanced mono performance supported by advanced cell designs and manufacturing have the potential to lower total costs per watt and enable faster growth of the mono c-Si wafer market. Assuming the success of these technologies, NPD Solarbuzz forecasts that mono c-Si cell production will grow at a faster rate than multi c-Si cells beginning in 2015, expanding into more applications and increasing market share.