Australian Fund Plans Polysilicon Manufacturing Hub, Launches Supply Chain Tracking Platform

Highlights :

  • Australia has been to the solar manufacturing rush, but seems willing to go in where it has a resource advantage, as in the case of polysilicon.
  • The move also anticipates more demanding questions from exporters on solar supply chains in the future, as Europe, and the US seek ways to protect their own upcoming manufacturing facilities.
Australian Fund Plans Polysilicon Manufacturing Hub, Launches Supply Chain Tracking Platform

Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, a Queensland, Australia, based investment firm with a special focus on the energy transition, has announced an ambitious plan to establish a polysilicon manufacturing facility in Australia.  The move, said to involve investments of $8 billion comes with the firm claiming that land for the project has already been identified in Townsville, Queensland. The move comes even as Quinbrook launched  ‘Quintrace’, a digital platform designed to empower offtake customers with real-time visibility into their hourly carbon footprint while adhering to the latest carbon accounting standards for energy consumption, generation and storage.

Quintrace, a digital platform to track energy supply chainMajor energy consumers are now demanding real time verification of the source of both their renewable power supplies and non-renewable supplies along with granular carbon reporting of net carbon intensity in order to meet increasingly stringent carbon accounting and reporting regulations. Quintrace aims to meet this need via a centralized dashboard tool that assimilates all power supply and consumption data powered through a cloud-hosted platform. The solution allows energy customers to trace the source of every kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumed at their operational facilities, matching it back to their nominated renewable supply projects located within the grid on a 24/7 basis. The technology behind Quintrace processes supply and demand data in real time not only from a customer’s wind, solar or battery storage projects but also measures the carbon intensity of grid power purchases thereby enabling hourly insights into the net carbon impact of each customer facility.

Quinbrook idea to build a state-of-the-art polysilicon manufacturing facility is linked to this possibly, as that would itself be powered by a large-scale solar and battery storage project nearby. Readers will be aware of the high share of rooftop solar in Australia’s electricity market, and the push to build large storage to ensure the best use of these newly created resources.

Australia’s and Queensland’s advantage in this case is the availability of high quality silica quartz in the region, the precursor to making polysilicon.

The move will not surprise many people, even as Australia has until now, barely had a manufacturing base of any sort in the solar supply chain. In doing so, Australia is following on the footsteps of the US and Europe, which have also pushed to build local supply chains, even at great cost in terms of incentives and other subsidies. It was the volatility in the price of polysilicon that was blamed for the yo-yo movement of solar module prices in 2021-22 . Module prices have roughly moved in step with polysilicon prices in the key production centre, China, including the all time lows being seen currently. China dominates the polysilicon market as well, with a share of over 70% of actual production, and over 80% of capacity.

Australia is rich in Silicon in the form of quartz, but like most of its exports, has been content being a commodity exporter of the stuff to China, in this case, where it is turned into high purity silicon for use in solar and electronics sectors.

Like other mega green energy projects in Australia, Quinbrook too is counting on green energy to power the manufacturing, and cheaper access to raw materials to help it overcome the cost disadvantages of higher salaries and other costs, and even become a top ‘green’ exporter.

For Quinbrook, successful commissioning of the project will allow it to leverage existing relationships with module manufacturers and broker supply deals that assure it of a green supply chain for the solar supplies involved with future projects.

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