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May 8, 2018

Photovoltaic industry, tight tin ore supply to buoy tin prices

SHANGHAI, May 4 (SMM) – High downstream demand for tin-related products in the emerging photovoltaic (PV) field and a tight global supply of tin ore are likely to buoy tin prices, SMM believes.

The SHFE tin 1809 contract surged above all moving averages on the night of May 3 as investors added their longs. It soared to a high of 148,580 yuan/mt on May 4, and closed 630 yuan/mt higher from the previous day.

Tin-based PV cells, generally solar cells, convert sunlight into electricity. Development of the PV sector has received much support from domestic policy in China. The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development will take the lead in promoting solar PV buildings, according to the Intelligence Photovoltaic Industry Development Action Plan (2018-2020) issued on April 11.

In 2017, China's new PV installations amounted to 53.06 GW, taking up 39% of the newly installed power generating capacity of the country. Newly installed PV capacity in China ranked first in the world for five consecutive years, with overall volume of 130.25 GW. This accounted for 32.4% of total global PV installations.

Demand mostly came from PV ribbon products. PV ribbons, also called tin-plated copper ribbons, connect PV modules. As an important raw material in the welding process of the PV module, it maximises efficiencies for each solar module design. More than 65% of tin material output each year is used to produce PV ribbons, according an estimate by the International Tin Council.

The PV industry has also seen much development overseas, such as in Poland, Austria, Dubai and the US.

Separately, the global supply of tin ore shrank as output from Myanmar fell. Myanmar is China's largest supplier of tin ore. In March, China imported 8,004 mt of tin ore and concentrate, down over 60% from the same period last year, according to China Customs.

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