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Inventories of Photovoltaic Materials and Products Rise

Inventories of photovoltaic (PV) materials and products, including crystalline silicon (c-Si) and thin-film modules, will increase in the first quarter of 2011 because of a temporary decline in demand for solar power systems, according to researcher IHS iSuppli.

However, the spike in inventory levels will be short-term and stockpiles will decline later in the year because the number of solar power installations will increase.

Days of inventory (DOI) for c-Si will expand by 22.9 percent and DOI for thin-film modules will increase 21.4 percent, according to IHS iSuppli. The industry average DOI for c-Si modules in the first quarter of 2011 will reach 48, up from 37 in the fourth quarter of 2010. DOI for thin-film modules during the same period will reach 41, up from 32.

PV modules will suffer the most pronounced jump in inventories, but solar polysilicon, wafer and cell materials also will see DOI increases. The increase will be limited to the first three months of the year, according IHS iSuppli.

Solar installations decreased in January because many countries decreased financial incentives for solar power systems, said Stefan de Haan, senior analyst for PV at IHS. In addition, demand is usually weak in the first month of the year. With weaker demand, inventories of PV materials and products are increasing.

However, solar system installations will increase later in the year, according to IHS iSuppli, and inventories in the PV supply chain will be reduced.

The short-term decline in solar power demand and the temporary increase in inventories of PV products and materials will have little impact on the long-term growth of demand for materials used in PV systems production.

In 2010, the global market for PV materials and products increased by 114 percent to $6.5 billion and will reach $16.9 billion in 2015, according to a new report by trade association SEMI and Linx-AEI Consulting.

Chemicals and materials used in PV cells and solar power systems include silicon, slurries, gases, wet chemicals, precursors, dopants, and other materials.

The report also cites some key trends in PC technology developments including a drive to increased material and cell efficiency in silicon by using diamond wire sawing, improved texturization processes, novel selective emitter schemes, and plating technologies.