Author: Ken Teegardin. Licence: Creative Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.
UK-based multicrystalline silicon wafer maker PV Crystalox Solar Plc (LON:PVCS) turned to a pre-tax loss of EUR 5.37 million (USD 6.3m) in the first half of 2017 as revenues dropped.
The year-ago profit of EUR 4.74 million included higher profits from the sale of excess polysilicon inventory. The lower polysilicon trading volumes in the first six months of 2017 led to a 64% fall in revenue to EUR 12.6 million.
Wafer shipments increased to 69 MW from 59 MW in the first half of 2016. PV Crystalox’s wafers are mainly used in modules for the French market. There, power producers get higher feed-in tariffs (FiTs) for using EU-made components in their solar parks, and there are also additional incentives for lower carbon footprint installations such as the company’s wafering capacity in Germany. In French auctions, the carbon footprint is the second most important factor taken into consideration after price. Still, this market supports demand but only provides limited insulation from the pricing pressure in the solar industry.
PV Crystalox said that average multicrystalline wafer prices in the period were down by more than 20% year-over-year. It observed a modest price recovery in recent weeks as a result of supply side issues and strong demand from markets in China and USA.
Price erosion continues across the photovoltaic (PV) value chain and prices remain very low due to industry overcapacity in China, the firm noted, adding that the PV manufacturing industry outside China is facing “an existential crisis”. At the same time, there is increased demand for higher efficiency monocrystalline silicon cells and these are seen to become the dominant technology by 2019.
As previously announced, PV Crystalox is ending multicrystalline silicon ingot production in the UK. The lease for one of the production buildings expires in October and the firm is preparing to leave it. The other facilities are to be cleared by the end of March 2018 and negotiations are ongoing regarding surrender of those leases. Once ingot production stops, PV Crystalox will buy blocks from an external supplier.
In September the company expects the decision by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in an arbitration case with “one of the world's leading PV companies”. The latter has stopped buying wafers from PV Crystalox in 2013, thus breaking the terms of a seven-year supply contract struck in 2008. The outcome is uncertain but the wafer maker indicated in March 2016 that the value of any award, if its claim is upheld, could be a multiple of its market capitalisation at that time.