Silicon Materials–Update on Potential New Feedstock Sources in China

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Silicon Materials–
Update on Potential New Feedstock Sources in China

By Lily Feng, manager Industry Research & Statistics, and Dan Tracy, senior director Industry Research & Statistics

Over the past several years, growth in the solar market has fueled the growth in demand for polysilicon—the feedstock material that is the backbone to both silicon-based semiconductor devices and crystalline solar cells. As well documented in the industry press, soaring demand for solar energy technology has resulted in a very constrained supply of polysilicon since the 2003/2004 timeframe.

Growth in solar manufacturing has occurred in China as well, with numerous companies there currently manufacturing or planning to manufacture solar cells. (By last count, SEMI estimates at least 40 to 50 cell makers in China). Many are companies manufacturing crystalline-based cells, thus requiring polysilicon to produce ingots and wafers for solar applications.

As with the semiconductor industry, there is a desire to build up a sustainable supply chain to support this growth and China-based polysilicon production is part of the equation. SEMI highlighted some of the investment activities in polysilicon manufacturing in China (link to January SGU Article: China’s Booming Solar Energy Market Filled with Smoke and Fire(link is below)). Many polysilicon projects have entered various phases of manufacturing and those companies are highlighted in map below. Currently, 14 of these polysilicon suppliers (highlighted in the orange text circle) are in production with most at just the early stages of production. So while estimates place current planned polysilicon capacity in the range of 20,000 to 30,000 metric tons annually, though actual production is believed to be well below this. Potential capacity could more than double by 2009 or 2010; however, again actual production may be below the theoretical capacity level.

With demand for solar energy expected to grow by leaps and bounds globally, new entrants in China and elsewhere in the polysilicon production seek to become critical suppliers to the market. As market dynamics play out in this materials segment over the next several years, these manufacturers will experience various challenges, e.g oversupply of polysilicon, and encounter new opportunities.

For more information about the market in China, please contact Lily Feng at For information about SEMI’s activities for photovoltaics in China, please contact Min Hua at