GCL Technology Holdings Ltd., one of the world’s leading solar material producers and the second-largest polysilicon manufacturer, is strategizing its first overseas factory expansion. Despite the US being an attractive market, GCL’s joint-CEO, Lan Tianshi, suggests that high costs and regulatory challenges could steer the company toward Europe, the Middle East, and BRICS countries instead.
Addressing the US Market: Cost and Regulatory Challenges
The Inflation Reduction Act in the US has boosted domestic renewable manufacturing capacities and encouraged Chinese solar equipment makers to establish factories there. However, GCL Technology is hesitant due to the high costs and regulatory requirements of building a factory there. Lan estimates that construction in the US would be at least five times more expensive than in China.
GCL Technology is exploring a joint venture with a local industry leader to establish a factory outside China. Lan believes that the higher polysilicon prices in overseas markets could result in two or three times the profit of their Chinese facilities. The company aims to announce its plans by the end of the year.
Xinjiang Operations and Human Rights Concerns
GCL Technology’s operations in China include a polysilicon plant in Xinjiang, a region associated with human rights abuse allegations against the ethnic Uyghur Muslim population.
The US has prohibited imports of goods from Xinjiang unless companies can prove they were not produced using forced labor.
Lan states that GCL supports the Chinese government’s stance on human rights issues. However, the company will adapt to its buyers’ manufacturing location preferences.
Polysilicon Prices and Market Outlook
Polysilicon, a key component in solar panels, experienced a significant price surge in the last decade due to increased demand.
Although prices have declined recently, Lan expects them to remain between $17 and $20 per kilogram this year, reflecting strong demand for high-quality material.
He predicts the polysilicon market will return to a more balanced state as the supply and demand gap narrows.
Innovative Production Methods: Fluidized Bed Reactor Technology
GCL Technology is pioneering a unique production method known as fluidized bed reactor technology.
Unlike the conventional Siemens Process, this technique consumes less energy, making it more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
While competitors have raised concerns about the quality of the end product, Lan asserts that it is pure enough for advanced solar panels and some lower-end semiconductors. Moreover, due to intellectual property protections, the company’s self-developed technology could enjoy high returns for three to five years.
In conclusion, GCL Technology’s plans to expand its polysilicon production outside of China highlight its ambitions in a growing global market.
As they explore potential locations and adapt to buyers’ preferences, GCL Technology will continue focusing on innovation and developing more environmentally friendly production methods.