The Latest Challenge for Solar
Oct 13th 2011 6:36PM
Updated Oct 13th 2011 6:38PM
The price of solar modules has been falling all year, putting pressure on solar manufacturers. But falling polysilicon prices have put even more pressure on some of the most leveraged companies in the industry.
According to Bloomberg, the price of polysilicon has fallen 8.8% in the past week to $40.51 per kilogram. The pressure put on suppliers such as MEMC Electronic Materials (NYS: WFR) , LDK Solar (NYS: LDK) , and JA Solar (NAS: JASO) in the second quarter is likely to become worse in the third and fourth quarter.
It also means suppliers such as GT Advanced Technologies (NAS: GTAT) will be receiving fewer orders long-term as the industry sorts out this oversupply.
Good for some
The falling cost of polysilicon isn't bad news for all companies. Not all companies make all of their own polysilicon, and falling costs for third-party polysilicon can mean lower costs and higher margins for some manufacturers.
Many of the largest module producers make little to none of their own polysilicon, something that could create expanded margins in the future. Last quarter, SunPower (NAS: SPWRA) paid $32.5 million to terminate a third-party cell-supply contract, something that may pay off in the end. Two of the largest manufacturers, Suntech Power (NYS: STP) and Trina Solar (NYS: TSL) , buy a large percentage of their wafer capacity.
Foolish bottom line
Falling module prices mean cells, wafers, and polysilicon will all be put under pressure in the coming quarters. It looks as if companies that focus on polysilicon will take the brunt of it first, but this could provide opportunities for companies focused on module and cell production. Polysilicon is one of the main costs in a solar panel, and if prices remain low, as they are today, these companies would be the biggest winners.
Interested in reading more about solar stocks? Add your favorite to My Watchlist, and My Watchlist will find all of our Foolish analysis on this stock.
- Add MEMC Electronic Materials to My Watchlist.
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At the time this article was published Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of SunPower. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings, or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.
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