The rapid expansion of photovoltaic production capacity is driving the supply bottleneck of the industrial chain to accelerate the switch to the upstream. As the three important links of the photovoltaic industry chain, the source of polysilicon, silicon wafer and photovoltaic glass is ‘silicon’. With the rapid expansion of production capacity in the three links, the demand for upstream silicon materials has increased significantly. However, due to limited mineral resources and a long production expansion cycle, the supply of silicon resources cannot fully match the downstream demand, which has become the next ‘stuck’ link in the photovoltaic industry and the next outlet for companies to compete for layout.
As the most prominent part of the current photovoltaic supply chain contradiction, the price of silicon material is one of the hotspots that the market is most concerned about. As the main raw material of polysilicon, industrial silicon accounts for about 28% of the total cost, and the rise in its price has made polysilicon enterprises feel the pressure of rising costs. If there is no sufficient industrial silicon raw materials as a guarantee, once the production capacity of silicon material enterprises is released in a concentrated manner, there may be a phenomenon of restricting production due to insufficient supply of raw materials.
The ‘new bottleneck’ in the supply of photovoltaic raw materials is not only reflected in the polysilicon link. As a kind of silica ore, high-purity quartz sand is the main raw material for the production of silicon wafer crucibles. In the past two years, the production capacity of the silicon wafer side has been released in a concentrated manner under the tide of violent production expansion of over 750GW, which caused a shortage of quartz crucibles for cooking silicon wafers. At present, the global high-purity quartz raw material ore resources are highly concentrated and extremely scarce.
It is worth mentioning that as silicon wafers move towards large size and N-type, in order to ensure the quality of crystal pulling, service life and safe production, the proportion of imported high-purity sand is increasing. This means that in the next few years, the supply of high-quality quartz sand will become one of the key bottlenecks restricting the production capacity of silicon wafers, and ‘having silicon as king’ will become more and more intense.