Solar manufacturers squeezed between rising silicon costs and falling cell prices

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The price of solar-grade silicon has jumped to its highest in almost two years, while module prices have declined

London and New York – Makers of solar cells are under severe pressure with the spot price of cells at an all-time low at the same time as prices for solar-grade polysilicon and wafers have been increasing.

The prices charged for solar-grade polysilicon and wafers continued to increase in March 2011. Cuts in subsidy support on 1 January across major European markets, in the form of lower feed-in tariffs for solar electricity, are putting downward pressure on the prices of finished photovoltaic modules. Because of limited supply, the price of silicon is not falling - in fact it is rising.

The latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance Solar Value Chain Index, just published, the average spot price of polysilicon reached $79/kg in March 2011, the highest since May 2009 when the Index began. The price of polysilicon in China is higher than in the rest of the world, due to import restrictions and limited domestic supply.

The price of wafers also increased, with 6" multicrystalline silicon wafer prices reported at $3.62/piece on average in March, up 3% from February. Multi-crystalline silicon cell prices however were on average at $1.25 per Watt in March 2011, down 9.4% from December 2010.

The dollar price of modules (or panels) has dropped by almost 7% since December 2010, despite the strengthening euro, the currency of the world’s largest photovoltaic markets. The March results of the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Module Price Index show an average factory gate price across all markets for immediate delivery of $1.88/W for crystalline silicon modules. Although this is down since December, it is above the market’s previous expectations.

"The global demand for PV modules continues to be very strong, mainly driven by anticipation of further tariff cuts in Italy, Germany, Slovakia and the rest of the European PV markets," says Martin Simonek, analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance. "The first half of 2011 will see relatively small declines in module prices, despite the pressure from developers, because of supply bottlenecks upstream."

The data for Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Solar Value Chain Index and Module Price Index are collected between second and eighth day of each month through a questionnaire sent out to over 120 companies that buy, sell or trade polysilicon, wafers, cells and modules. The monthly results for both surveys are sent to all participating companies on the tenth day of each month. The Solar Value Chain Index started in May 2009 and the Module Price Index was launched in November 2010. Participation is free of charge for manufacturers across the solar value chain, and in case of the Module Price Index also for traders and developers. For further information on the Index, please contact msimonek@bloomberg.net

Contact on this press release:
Sarah Feinberg
Bloomberg LP
+1 202-654-4360
sfeinberg2@bloomberg.net

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Publication Date: 23 Mar 2011

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