Taiwan solar wafer makers ill-equipped to cope with adverse market conditions

Nuying Huang, Taipei; Adam Hwang, DIGITIMES Asia 0

China-based solar poly-Si wafer makers, facing intensifying pressure from mono-Si wafer suppliers and sharp drops in demand from the domestic market in the wake of a China plan to impsoe stricter control on PV installations, have generally taken measures to cope with adverse conditions. However, Taiwan-based poly-Si wafer makers are much worse-eqipped to handle them.

The China makers basically have four alternatives: upgrade to production of special diamond wire-sliced poly-Si wafers that enable downstream makers to produce polycrystalline black silicon solar cells; use existing polycrystal-growing furnaces to produce quasi-mono-Si ingots; invest in production of mono-Si wafers; or withdraw from the market.

Since use of special poly-Si wafers to produce polycrystalline black silicon solar cells entails MCCE (metal-catalyzed chemical etching), a wet-chemical technique in surface texturing process, and MCCE will result in serious water pollution, few China-based solar cell makers have adopted such wafers. As Taiwan's environmental protection standards are generally higher than China's, Taiwan-based solar cell makers are reluctant to use MCCE, which is infeasible for Taiwan's poly-Si wafer makers.

Quasi-mono-Si ingot production has not reached attractive performance-cost ratios, and no Taiwan-based poly-Si wafer makers have stepped into such production.

A few China-based poly-Si wafer makers have decided to invest in production of mono-Si wafers, with GCL-Poly Energy Holdings - the largest in China - being the most active. Since Taiwan-based poly-Si wafer makers have mostly remained in the red for a long time, almost none of them have considered the alternative due to financial difficulties.

Withdrawal from market seems the last choice for Taiwan's makers, but none of them have decided to to so. They hope the government can extend help.