Silicon Price Slumps – When will Solar Panels Follow Suit?

The value of silicon has plummetted recently with refined silicon (used to make solar cells) being around $100 per kilo, about 4-5 times cheaper than it was only a year ago.

Dare I say it – Silicon is Cheap As Chips!

Sorry…couldn’t resist that one.

Unfortunately this hasn’t followed through to hugely reduce the price of solar panels yet (silicon is the biggest ingredient in most solar PV panels).

 With the price of silicon getting lower and lower, companies whose competitive advantage is that their panels require less silicon, are facing some tough questions on their business models.

 The companies First Solar and Energy Conversion come to mind since they offer thin-film panels which traditionally cost less than the standard silicon ones.

 The main selling point of this type of technology was that it was far cheaper to build but now such companies are looking to focus on silicon technology while prices have dropped to an all-time low.

 Unfortunately, First Solar’s profits and stocks seem to be destined to decline this year. Energy Conversion is currently set to return to the losses that it has suffered for the last fifty years. Both companies have declined to comment on the impact of cheaper silicon.

However, with the prices of silicon being so low, the longer term future of the solar industry as a whole is looking very good and the potential to manufacture more solar panels at a price which can compete with other, dirtier generation is great.

It now just needs a chain of events to start with low raw materials prices spurring lower manufacturing costs, meaning that in the not too distant future the cost to the public of solar power may drop substantially, leading to a more rapid and widespread installation of business and home solar installations.

About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and founder of SolarQuotes.com.au. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division.

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