The German company’s decision to cede market share to Chinese companies producing the material for solar panels, in order to focus on semiconductor-ready, electronic grade product, has seen it slip behind its rivals in terms of production scale.
German polysilicon manufacturer Wacker Chemie‘s increased focus on semiconductor-linked material, rather than the silicon needed for solar panels, will see the business continue to fall down the global poly producer rankings, according to analyst Johannes Bernreuter.
A press release issued by the analyst’s company, Bernreuter Research, warned that development, together with the huge push in solar-grade polysilicon fab expansion being witnessed in China, will see the latter nation corner more than 90% of global supply by 2023.
‘Follow China’s lead’
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has opened the eyes for what it means to be economically dependent on a dictatorial regime,” said Bernreuter. “Western governments should not make the same mistake with China. It is high time to establish non-Chinese solar supply chains. China has demonstrated what the ingredients of success are: low electricity rates for power-hungry polysilicon and ingot production, loan guarantees for private investment, cost-efficient equipment manufacturing, and strategic foresight.”
With Tongwei having supplanted Wacker as the world’s biggest polysilicon producer in 2020, the German manufacturer has been shunted down into fourth place, based on last year’s performance as recorded by Bernreuter Research.
On the climb
GCL Technology has climbed to second on the list. Like Tongwei, it produced more than 100,000 tons of polysilicon last year. Both companies, according to Bernreuter Research, will have the capacity to make more than 370,000 tons per year by 2023.
Silicon production in Xinjiang is a controversial issue outside China – particularly the topic of whether forced labor is a part of the solar value chain. The US House of Representatives in December drafted the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which proposes banning all imports from Xinjiang unless it can be proven forced labor played no part in their manufacture.
Bernreuter Research predicted the expansionary strategy of Chinese poly makers would see Wacker’s market share contract further with the German business due to trail Xinte and East Hope by 2023, in sixth place.
That would mark a similar path to that taken by former world number one, the US-based Hemlock Semiconductor, which is owned by US tech company Corning. Since losing top-dog status in the poly ranking in 2012, Hemlock has steadily fallen down the list to sit ninth in the current edition.
South Korean poly maker OCI, which manufactures most of its product in Malaysia, sits seventh in the ranking and the only European presence in the top 10 is related to the 15% stake Norwegian company REC Silicon holds in the Shaanxi Non Ferrous Tianhong REC Silicon Materials joint venture in China, which is 85% held by a state-owned miner. REC’s fully-owned silicon production facilities are based in the US.