Silicon prices have risen 300%, which leads to prices of the purified metalloid polysilicon have touched $37.10 a kilogram, from $6.19 less than a year ago. Polysilicon prices are expected to remain strong through the end of 2022, according to Roth Capital Partners analysts including Philip Shen. And even worse, this time the problem isn’t limited to polysilicon. EVA prices, for example, have jumped 70% over the last month, rising from $2,761/t in August to $4,638/t today. Glass went up 20% again. Prices for steel, aluminum, and copper are also up. In addition to the previous reason that the solar industry geared up to meet an expected surge in demand for modules, makers of polysilicon were unable to keep up, this time another key pusher up of the prices is that the capacity of raw material producers is being constrained under Chinese “double control” policy. Nevertheless, the solar industry is facing pervasive upstream supply-chain cost challenges.
As a result, the average bidding prices for centralized procurement of solar modules in China have shown a rise, sparked by more expensive raw materials. Recent bids for solar module procurement have indicated that bids from top-tier module manufacturers offering 540W+ panels had topped RMB2.0-2.1/Watt (US$0.30-0.32c/W). Other centralised procurement offers have seen a quarter-on-quarter price increase of as much as 15%, depending on the type and expected power output of the modules being sought.
To address these challenges, particularly the shortage of polysilicon, some manufacturers have signed long-term deals with providers home and abroad to secure their supply, some have looked to bring greater polysilicon production in-house by launching joint venture partnerships in the field. Longer-term, the shortages are spurring construction of the new raw material factories, but now the challenge is timing that capacity perfectly to the growth.
The hiatus in the long-term downward trend in costs can be partly offset by a continual improvement in the efficiency of solar panels, for instance adopting N-type Topcon module with efficiency over 22% and bifacial power rating up to 615-620W. The more power output, lower degradation, and longer life cycle will help to share down the material cost.
However, efficiency and rising material cost are not the only reasons that will accelerate market shifting from PERC to N-type Topcon. The endless PERC-related patent offense and defense war increases the uncertainty and potential risk to deploy large-scale investment and projects containing PERC technology.
N-Type decision has never been as important as it is today.