Polysilicon dominates China market, single crystal photovoltaic market rises or will counterattack

Abstract Who will lead the photovoltaic market, single crystal or polycrystalline? This is a question that has recently been asked more by the photovoltaic industry. With the cost advantage, polycrystalline photovoltaic has gradually developed into the mainstream of domestic photovoltaic applications in the past few years. But this year, the investment in the single crystal industry chain is hot...
Who will lead the photovoltaic market, single crystal or polycrystalline? This is a question that has recently been asked more by the photovoltaic industry.

With the cost advantage, polycrystalline photovoltaic has gradually developed into the mainstream of domestic photovoltaic applications in the past few years. But this year, the enthusiasm for investment in the single crystal industry chain has gradually warmed up.

Overseas, Tesla’s head, Masco’s Solarcity, spent $350 million to acquire single-crystal panel maker Silevo, gambling on monocrystalline manufacturing; in China, monocrystalline silicon leader Longji The stock will increase by 1.96 billion yuan plus single crystal silicon rods and slicing projects, firmly holding the position of the world's largest monocrystalline silicon wafer manufacturer.

With the continuous breakthrough in cost control and product conversion rate of single crystal enterprises, and the application advantages of single crystals in distributed photovoltaic power generation, the future single crystal is expected to achieve counterattack against polycrystals.

Polycrystalline dominates the Chinese market

The photovoltaic industry chain includes six parts: silicon material, ingot/pull rod, slice, battery, battery assembly and application system. Starting from the upstream ingot/pull link, the industrial route is divided into two ends: one is a single crystal route mainly based on drawn single crystal rods; the other is a polycrystalline route mainly based on molten cast polycrystalline ingots.

This is not a very different technical route, except that the single crystal needs to be drawn into a rod shape, and the polycrystalline is cast into a shape of a spindle, and the subsequent sections, batteries, and components are not much different. However, since the single crystal silicon rod has high requirements for manual control in the production process, and the polysilicon material has relatively low production control requirements during the growth process, the single crystal is more inferior in color in the capacity expansion speed. However, the slower capacity expansion rate makes it difficult for single crystals to meet the rapidly growing installed capacity of the photovoltaic industry in the early days.

“Doing a single crystal requires a high technical threshold, but polycrystalline does not require a strong technology. As long as you have money, you can buy an ingot furnace. In the early stage of the shortage, in order to solve the problem of short supply, those Those who have no technical background but have strong financial strength choose the fastest and easiest way to form production capacity, which is the polycrystalline route.” Li Zhenguo, chairman of the domestic monocrystalline silicon wafer leading Longji shares, said.

In this context, polycrystalline has gradually become the mainstream domestic route. By 2009, due to the slowdown in overseas demand, the domestic PV industry entered a cold winter, and the rapid expansion of the polycrystalline enterprises that caused a serious overcapacity in the early stage, in order to promote the production and sales of products, on the one hand, the price of polycrystalline components was greatly reduced, and on the other hand, the account was extended. Unconventional means such as the promotion of sales, further squeeze the market share of the single crystal. The data shows that in 2006, the global single crystal accounted for a historical peak of 43.6%, and has continued to decline since then, only about 22% in 2012 and 2013.

Li Zhenguo believes that because the Chinese market mainly uses polycrystalline, and China's annual installed capacity is particularly large, this has lowered the proportion of global single crystal use.

Before the distributed photovoltaic feed-in tariff subsidy policy has been introduced, the domestic PV installation market is mainly driven by the demand for construction of the ground power station. An industry insider who has been investing in domestic ground power stations for many years said bluntly, "There is no other reason why we choose polycrystalline, because polycrystalline is cheap."

It is understood that because downstream battery and component manufacturers have long positioned single crystal products into high-end and high-profit products, although the cost difference of single polycrystalline components is not large, the price of single crystal components is still much higher than polycrystalline. Components, this format largely hinders the promotion and application of single crystal routes.

According to the data provided by solarzoom, as of September 15th, the price of single crystal cell (156mm*156mm) is 2.8 yuan/W, and the price of polycrystalline cell with the same specification is 2.4 yuan/W. Polycrystalline batteries are 16.67% expensive. In terms of components, the price of 260W single crystal module is 4.85 yuan / watt, which is 14.11% higher than the price of polycrystalline components.

"Our investment in the power station is the indicator of the system tile. After the completion of the entire power station system, it is converted into the cost per watt." The power station investment person said that the current cost of building a ground power station is more than Crystals are still lower than single crystals, which is the main reason why they choose polycrystals. "I admit that single crystal is indeed better than polycrystalline, but it is not so good that I think the extra money is cost-effective? It is still worth discussing."

According to a broker researcher who did not want to be named, the construction of the power station includes two parts: component cost and non-component cost. In terms of non-component cost, the use of single crystal components has the advantages of saving land and high area power generation efficiency, but this part of the advantages is not enough to make up for the disadvantage of single crystal in component cost.

Since most of China's ground power stations are built in areas with low land costs such as deserts and Gobi, the demand for monocrystalline silicon wafers is very low. Previously, domestic distributed rooftop power plants have been subsidized in the form of “Golden Sun” project, which is based on the scale of power plant installation, regardless of the amount of power generation in the future. Therefore, for installers, it is necessary to reduce costs in the installation process. Only in order to ensure the maximum benefit, this also objectively hindered the development of monocrystalline batteries in China.

Single crystal counterattack

Although the current polycrystalline route still occupies the mainstream position of the photovoltaic industry, since last year, the single crystal industry has shown a clear rise.

On March 21 this year, Japan's Kyocera, which has been producing polycrystalline products for many years, announced the addition of monocrystalline silicon module products to cope with the market demand for high conversion efficiency products. On June 17 this year, Tesla's head, Musk, another company. Star company Solarcity announced the acquisition of single crystal panel maker Cylon Power and plans to build more than 1 GW of component capacity per year in New York over the next two years.

In addition, Sunpower, a global N-type single-crystal leading company, also launched its expansion plan this year. It is expected that the production capacity will increase from 1.2GW to 1.4GW and 1.8GW in 2015 and 2016. Monocrystalline battery manufacturer MissionSolar and the world's largest silicon wafer supplier. GCL also announced plans to expand its monocrystalline products.

The enthusiasm of domestic single crystal enterprises is not too much. Since last year, the production capacity of monocrystalline wafers of Longji and Zhonghuan has been expanding. The capacity increased by 900MW last year.

The 300MW plant, which was launched in Malaysia by the monocrystalline wafer company listed in Hong Kong, was successfully put into operation in August. In July this year, Longji shares announced a plan to increase the amount of plans to raise 1.96 billion yuan plus 2GW of single crystal silicon rods and slicing projects. Longji shares said in the announcement that the above projects will strengthen the company's strategic position as the world's largest manufacturer of monocrystalline wafers.

Expansion is not the sole "carnival" of the single crystal industry chain. The largest polysilicon wafer producer in China, GCL-Poly, recently announced that it has introduced N-type monocrystalline silicon wafers in its original product line.

Single crystal cell conversion rate is higher

In the past few years, polysilicon manufacturers have been striving to improve efficiency and reduce costs, and continuously improve the manufacturing technology of crystalline silicon, making the efficiency of polycrystalline cells reach about 18%. In Li Zhenguo's view, the current conversion rate of polycrystalline batteries is close to the laboratory level. “It is extremely difficult for polycrystalline to continue to achieve 18.5%, but for single crystals, there is still a lot of room for improvement in conversion rate.”

At present, the conversion rates of P-type and N-type single crystals have reached levels of 19%-19.5% and 21%-24%. “The recent back passivation technology can easily increase the conversion efficiency of P-type single crystal by one percentage point. This technology also improves polycrystalline, and the improvement effect is about 0.5%. There is no single crystal height, but the investment in upgrading the production line is It is the same." Li Zhenguo said.

According to industry experts, from the perspective of material structure, the crystal lattice structure of single crystals is completely ordered, and polycrystals are short-range order and long-range disorder, which means almost all technologies that can improve the conversion efficiency of polycrystalline cells. The means can be applied to single crystals, but the technique for the unique structure of single crystals may not be able to be used on polycrystals. At the same time, the nearly perfect structure of single crystal silicon also makes the single crystal product have higher reliability.

Single crystal production process has advantages

In addition to the continued improvement in conversion rate, single crystals are also more advantageous in terms of unit output improvement, introduction of diamond cutting, and thinning. It is understood that the characteristics of the diamond wire is that the silicon wafer can be cut thinner and more efficient, the cutting speed is twice that of the ordinary rigid wire, and no special cutting liquid is needed, and water can be used as a solvent. Due to its lattice ordering characteristics, single crystal silicon rods can realize the scale application of diamond wires and promote the thinning of silicon wafers, and the silicon material consumption per wafer of silicon wafers will be lower.

As the leader of domestic monocrystalline silicon wafers, Longji has been working to reduce the manufacturing cost of the slicing section. According to research estimates, the average cost of Lunge shares in the first half of this year was about 1.56 yuan / W, which was basically stable with 1.85 yuan / W in the first half of last year and 1.70 yuan / W in the second half of last year. However, since the price of polysilicon was significantly higher than that of last year, the cost of silicon increased more. It can be inferred that the non-silicon cost of Longji Company is always in a downward channel.

“It is obvious that from the end of last year to the beginning of this year, there have been more and more discussions on the technical routes of single crystal and polycrystalline. In fact, as early as 2006, Longji shares passed the development of the future industry. And the analysis of the development trend of technology, the conclusion that single crystal, especially N-type single crystal is the lowest technical cost of electricity, so we have firmly followed this technical route for many years." Li Zhenguo said.

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