Intersolar North America 2008: Silicon Updates

[San Francisco, California USA]

Dow Corning and REC Silicon Videos and select Presentation slides.

As part of the North American Photovoltaics Advanced Manufacturing Technology Conference: Bulk Silicon at Intersolar, here is a video of the presentation:

Silicon and Silicone: Addressing Critical Needs Throughout the PV Value Chain
Dr. Gaetan Borgers, Global Industry Director, Dow Corning Solar Industry

Focusing on Dow Corning’s Upgraded Metallurgical (UMG) Silicon developments, Dr. Borgers said:

By end of last year, we have gone from 1000 to 3000 metric tons of capacity. And the important thing I want to highlight here is that we did that in less than a year. And I think that’s proving one of the benefits of metallurgical silicon which is that you can bring additional capacity quickly.

Dow Corning is considering large UMG capacity expansions after the next generation material is launched.

After some production delays, the PV-1201 market launch is now expected in the fourth quarter of 2008. Dow Corning claims PV-1201 will permit blend ratios of 25% (percent) or better with polysilicon. As shown in the roadmap, an even purer material with greater than 80% blend ratios is expected in 2009 or 2010.

Later at the Solar Materials, Equipment & Technology (SMET) Conference, I also videoed the Renewable Energy Corporation ASA (OSL:REC) REC Silicon division presentation:

Overview of Silicon Production and Capacity
Gøran Bye, Executive VP, REC Silicon

REC does not believe the strong growth of polysilicon availability will result in immediate oversupply because:

  • Almost all REC polysilicon capacity is contracted under Prepaid or Take or Pay (TOP) terms, and it will be paid.
  • Polysilicon inventories are nonexistent
  • Huge underutilized downstream capacity exists

Continuing, Gøran Bye said:

In addition to that, if we do believe in the solar story, and we do believe that cut wafers will be an important part of that in the future, there is a significant additional capacity that is needed by (?) 2020.

If the cut wafer part of the industry continues to grow with about 33-35% per year, there will be a need for 800000 (metric) tons of polysilicon in 2020.

Thin Film Photovoltaics has emerged as a key driver for monosilane gas demand growth as overall demand has almost doubled from 1600 MT (metric tons) in 2006 to 3000 MT 2008. While production capacity is far larger than merchant market silane gas demand, most silane is used by REC and MEMC Electronic Materials, Inc. for internal polysilicon production. There may be a supply pinch in 2008, but this will be an inventory and logistics issue only.

REC plans to support the growth of the merchant silane market and maintain their market leading production and sales position through long term contracts with their gas distribution customers.

Start of something big
REC Silicon’s ambition is to maintain their market position as the photovoltaic industry continues to experience tremendous growth per the above slide (a bit different from the one shown in REC Group Capital Markets Day 2008). Their next production facility is expected to be up to four times as large as the new Moses Lake facility to achieve the scale required for competitive low cost polysilicon production. REC Silicon is also evaluating silane production capacity expansion dedicated to supplying the merchant market.

And the next day, Friday, July 18, 2008, REC announced “Secures NOK 5 billion in silane sales contracts” and said:

REC Silicon, the world’s largest producer and seller of monosilane gas, has signed a number of new long-term agreements with existing customers (major gas distributors) for the supply of monosilane gas (SiH4).

REC claims monosilane gas deliveries are already underway at average sales prices about 15% higher than prior market pricing. These contracts represent all the monosilane capacity REC plans to allocate to the merchant market through 2009 with additional volumes in 2010 through 2014 dependent on end user demand growth.

I presume longtime REC customer and partner, Air Products & Chemicals, Inc. (NYSE:APD), is among the existing customers securing long term silane gas supplies for their photovoltaic, semiconductor, and flat panel display end customer base?

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