China’s share of world’s polysilicon production grows from 30% to 80% in just one decade

German-based polysilicon producer Wacker Chemie has fallen to fourth place in the list of the world’s top polysilicon firms, which means the Top 3 producers are now all in China. Tongwei, GCL Technology (previously GCL-Poly Energy) and Daqo New Energy now lead the rankings, published by Bernreuter Research

Polysilicon plant or Tongwei in Leshan, Sichuan province. Credit: Sichuan Daily

Tongwei surpassed Wacker in 2020, and GCL moved into second place in 2021. Each of these two Chinese companies exceeded an annual output of 100,000 metric tons (MT) for the first time in 2021, and each will reach a production capacity of 370,000 MT after massive expansion by 2023.

“Wacker will take a similar course as former market leader Hemlock Semiconductor did a decade ago,” said Johannes Bernreuter, head of Bernreuter Research. “The company is increasingly focusing on expanding its leading position in the electronic-grade polysilicon market for semiconductors; at the same time, it is abandoning more and more market share in the rapidly growing solar-grade sector.”

With Wacker shifting focus away from solar, the company will be overtaken by two more Chinese manufacturers, Xinte Energy and East Hope, within the next year. This will mean the world’s Top 5 solar-grade polysilicon producers will be from China in 2023.

When US-based Hemlock Semiconductor lost its top position in 2012, China had a share of just 30% in global polysilicon production. By 2021, this share had already risen to 76%, and to even more than 80% in the solar-grade sector. Since a gigantic expansion wave is currently underway in China, the country’s share in the global polysilicon output will grow even further: to more than 90%. In wafer, solar cell and module production, the Chinese industry has already reached such or still higher market shares.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has opened the eyes for what it means to be economically dependent on a dictatorial regime. Western governments should not make the same mistake with China,” Bernreuter said. “It is high time to establish non-Chinese solar supply chains. China has demonstrated what the ingredients of success are: low electricity rates for power-hungry polysilicon and ingot production, loan guarantees for private investment, cost-efficient equipment manufacturing and strategic foresight.”

The top 10 polysilicon manufacturers for 2021 include:

  1. Tongwei (China)
  2. GCL (China)
  3. Daqo New Energy (China)
  4. Wacker (Germany/United States)
  5. Xinte Energy (China)
  6. Xingjiang East Hope New Energy (China)
  7. OCI (South Korea/Malaysia)
  8. Asia Silicon (China)
  9. Hemlock (United States)
  10. TianREC – joint venture of Shaanxi Non-Ferrous Tianhong New Energy and REC Silicon (China)

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