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Upward trend in wafer prices slowed; cell prices show signs of weakness

August 26, 2020 PV InfoLink

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Polysilicon price

This week, Tier-1 Chinese producers of polysilicon for mono-Si wafers clinched deals for September, with the trading price having grown by RMB 4/kg to RMB 93–96/kg and RMB 94/kg on average. With polysilicon prices staying at high levels, polysilicon producers enjoyed stronger bargaining power during price negotiations, so some of them struck deals at prices higher than the market average.

Tier-1 producers were said to have offered price quotes topping RMB 100/kg, but very few orders were signed as wafer makers were less keen to procure polysilicon than they had been in the previous week. On the whole, as only a handful of polysilicon producers have been running at full capacity since early July, Yongxiang Leshan’s old production lines have ceased production, and Ordos produced polysilicon in sporadic amounts in August, polysilicon shortage has become more serious than expected, prompting polysilicon prices for mono-Si wafers to surge. Yet, with Xinjiang-based polysilicon plants having resumed operation in late August, polysilicon makers are more likely to run at near-full capacity in September. Moreover, since overseas producers are running at full capacity, mono-grade polysilicon prices are not going to jump any time soon. 

Polysilicon prices for multi-Si wafers increased fractionally this week, as some multi-Si wafer makers reduced their polysilicon procurement in the face of growing risks and costs. However, the prices achieved less intense increase, staying at a trading price of RMB 64–68/kg and averaging RMB 66/kg.

Overseas polysilicon prices hovered throughout much of this week at USD 10.2–10.7/kg for mono-Si wafers and USD 7.2–7.7/kg for multi-Si wafers, because polysilicon prices had climbed for several weeks, customers were biding their time this week, and few deals were clinched. 

Wafer price

Since a series of explosions of polysilicon plants took place in mid-July, downstream customers’ concern about polysilicon shortage has constantly pushed up polysilicon prices for mono-Si wafers and increases in polysilicon prices have predictably caused mono-Si wafer prices to pick up. But as Xinjiang-based producers have increasingly resumed operation and mono-Si wafer giant Longi is going to shut down some production plants for maintenance in order to commission new production lines in September, the supply of mono-grade polysilicon is picking up. With demand for polysilicon gradually weakening, Longi’s prices annoucned on August 25 are consistent with their previous levels. This week, the trading price for mono-Si wafers was RMB 2.87–3.08/piece for G1 and RMB 3.02–3.23/piece for M6 in China. In overseas markets, this price was USD 0.383–0.387/piece for G1 and USD 0.402–0.406/piece for M6.

Multi-Si wafer prices were stable this week, traded at RMB 1.55–1.65/piece and RMB 1.6/piece on average in China and at USD 0.2–0.205/piece and averaged USD 0.203/piece in overseas markets. Multi-Si wafer prices have been on the rise since mid-July, bringing cell producers increased costs. So, the declining cost performance of multi-Si cells is taking a toll on India, where multi products are dominant, and slowing down the market’s draw-in of multi-Si wafers. On the whole, as polysilicon prices for multi-Si wafers see less increase and multi demand remains stable, multi-Si wafer prices are not going to increase much for a short period of time. 

Cell price

Based on Tongwei’s prices released on August 25, mono-Si cell prices had stopped increasing, with price quotes for September having come in at RMB 0.97/W for G1 and M6. Price quotes for multi-Si cells for September improved to RMB 0.62/W due to increases in wafer prices. 

The trading price for cells decreased this week, largely because module producers cut back on cell procurement. The price for G1 cells plunged this week due to stocked inventory—from RMB 0.9–0.91/W to RMB 0.88/W in China and USD 0.115–0.117/W in overseas markets.

Although there is some demand for M6 cells, their price dropped by RMB 0.01/W this week to RMB 0.91–0.92/W as a result of downward price pressure from module makers. The overseas average price for M6 cells also decreased in the same week, coming in at USD 0.121–0.122/W.

Multi-Si cell prices have slipped to RMB 2.6–2.65/piece because multi demand is shrinking, the cost performance of multi-Si cells is declining due to price increases, multi demand is still recovering from the pandemic, some PV projects are making slow progress, and utilization rates among Indian module makers are picking up slowly—all these events conspire to discourage the draw-in from India. Multi-Si cell prices will trend further downward as demand continues to decrease.

Module price

While cell prices have decreased as a result of the diminished procurement by module makers, module prices are usually offered on a long-term basis. Moreover, the price for PV glass continues to rise; the price for 3.2-mm glass might have increased from RMB 26/m2 to RMB 27–28/m2. As it is not easy to predict how module costs will evolve, there is be no clear trend for module prices in Q4. In the recent utility-scale projects, the trading price for mono-facial mono-Si modules based on M6 wafers was RMB 1.57–1.65/W, whereas that for bifacial modules was RMB 1.7/W or above.

Developers that are not in a hurry to connect projects to the grid by the end of the year in China or abroad are waiting for module prices to decline. As the grid-connection deadlines have been extended until next year in many foreign markets, overseas module prices have not achieved much increase. In short, it is not unclear how module prices will evolve in Q4.

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