While the carnage of tier-2 and tier-3 solar manufacturers continues in the solar industry as a result of impending industry consolidation, tier-1 companies are planning expansions as their capacity utilization nears 100%. The level of capacity expansions are certainly not the same as they were in 2008, but they do indicate a turn towards positive momentum for the upstream solar industry.
Polysilicon: While the Chinese polysilicon capacity is expected to go down as tier-2 and tier-3 manufacturers are left to go out of business, there are capacity expansions planned outside of China.
- Tokuyama Corporation has established a wholly owned subsidiary, Tokuyama Malaysia, and is currently constructing two production plants with 6,200 tonnes at the first plant, and 13,800 tonnes at the second plant, located in the Samalaju Industrial Park in Sarawak, Malaysia. The first plant came online in September 2013, while the second one will come online in April 2014. Tokuyama has recently invested in an innovative and low-cost kerfless wafer developer 1366 Technologies (client registration required) that is planning to expand its own capacity to 250 MW.
- Wacker is also continuing with expansion of its Tennessee plant in the U.S. with 15,000 MT/year new capacity to be completed by mid-2015. Wacker is one non-Chinese polysilicon company that is free of any polysilicon trade tariffs by the Chinese government, giving it an edge over Hemlock, REC, and MEMC.
- There are also two polysilicon plants under construction in Saudi Arabia funded by Al-Rajhi Capital, with a total capacity of 16,000 MT, that are to come online by Q4 2014.
- Qatar Science and Technologies (QSTec) is also building a 10,000 MT polysilicon plant with plans to come online by Q1 2015.
Wafers and ingots:
- Comtec (client registration required) announced earlier this year that it is expanding its n-type ingot and wafer capacity (client registration required) and building a 1 GW ingot and wafer manufacturing facility in Malaysia, given that the company expects increasing demand of n-type wafers from its current customers, SunPower and Panasonic. Malaysia’s Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said that Tokuyama will provide Comtec with polysilicon for ingot and wafer production from Tokuyama’s Malaysian polysilicon plant. Comtec’s facility is scheduled to come online in Q1 2014.
Cells and modules:
- SunPower (client registration required) announced last month that it will expand its cell and module manufacturing capacity by 25% as it runs its existing plants at full utilization to meet surging demand. The company will build a factory in the Philippines that will be able to produce 350 MW of cells a year and is expected to go into production in 2015. This expansion will bring total annual cell capacity for SunPower to 1.8 GW.
- Earlier this year, Yingli’s (client registration required) CEO also announced that the company is targeting to have 6.5 GW of module manufacturing by 2015, given it is running at near full capacity in 2013 and expecting local demand growth. However, the company will have to resolve its debt issues before expanding.
- Nexolon America, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of South Korean Nexolon (client registration required), has also broken ground on a 200 MW cell and module manufacturing facility in San Antonio, TX with the first 100 MW to be completed by spring of 2014 and the second by Q2 2015.
- TS Solartech (client registration required) that has existing cell manufacturing capacity of 70 MW has plans to expand to 560 MW by 2017, as the company currently has 100% capacity utilization.
- Motech also announced that it plans to expand its PV module production capacity in Q4 2013 and cell capacity in 2014. The details of the expansions were not disclosed. The company currently has 1.6 GW of cell and 92 MW of module capacity.
- Within thin-films, Heliovolt (client registration required) that received $19 million in Q3 2013 by the South Korean conglomerate SK Group, is planning to expand capacity from 25 MW today to 100 MW in 2014.
These capacity expansions are a good impetus for chemicals and materials companies to target solar manufacturers that are planning capacity expansions for strategic supply agreements to enable revenue generation after a slow two years. Moreover, these expansions also indicate that there will be solar manufacturing activity outside of China specifically in Malaysia, the Philippines, and the U.S., which should be considered as corporations lay out their business development plans for 2014.