CHINESE CO BEATS SILICON SHORTAGE BY MAKING IT
No silicon, no “Million Solar Roofs.”
Solar Power 2007, September 24-27, Long Beach, CA.
With Supplies Short, Chinese Solar Firm To Manufacture Own Silicon
Amy Reeves, September 14, 2007 (Investor’s Business Daily via Yahoo News)
Chinese solar wafer manufacturer LDK Solar
Making polysilicon is difficult. Getting from there to a wafer, from a wafer to a cell and from a cell to a panel is even harder. (click to enlarge)
Graphic from Renewable Energy Access
LDK Solar will produce its own supply of polysilicon.
- The price of polysilicon has doubled since 2004. Spot prices are up 30% in 2007.
- LDK Solar polysilicon production plant construction began August 18.
- LDK’s timetable: 6,000 metric tons expected in 1st production, 3rd quarter of 2008. 15,000 tons in 2009. Experts think LDK’s timetable is ambitiously unlikely. Realistically: 100 tons in 2008, 3,000 in 2009.
LDK Solar polysilicon production plant is in Xinyu, China.
- LDK makes silicon wafers. Wafers make solar cells. Cells make solar panels. Panels go on the roof.
- Building a silicon plant is a huge and expensive undertaking, requiring special design and a lot of electricity.
- Any production LDK manages will cut their costs and improve their market share. Experts have confidence in LDK’s management and track record. It has a patented silicon recycling process which requires only 25% new silicon for wafers. It has shown one of the best financial records in the solar wafer industry.
- LDK’s sales have previously been to China but it recently signed a $495 million contract with Taiwan and is expanding outward.
- Long term, the company plants a vertically integrated operation but for now will remain a polysilicon and wafer manufacturer.
The LDK wafer plant in Xinyu, China. The polysilicon factory will be nearby.
- Jack Lai, CFO, LDK: "It costs $1.2 billion to get into the polysilicon business…You need 13,000 acres of land, you need the technology, you need to buy enough equipment (and) you need a big power plant."
- Adam Hinckley, analyst: "It's a very aggressive time frame, and it is unrealistic to assume it will hit all those targets without any bumps… Polysilicon production is a chemical refining process…That's not where their core expertise was."