Category: News

EU backs bid to take CPV to mass production amid 29% efficiency claims

A solar PV technology claiming to have achieved 50% higher output than conventional systems in tests has bagged EU research money to speed up its move to large-scale production.

A €10.6 million (US$11.7 million) EU grant will help bankroll the setup of a European pilot assembly line for a concentrated PV (CPV) technology developed by Swiss start-up Insolight, following tests of more than a year across the continent.

Funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme will back the two-year HIPERION scheme, run by a 16-strong consortium led by Swiss research centre CSEM which includes the likes of Fraunhofer ISE, Mondragon Assembly, Argotech, ENGIE Laborelec and European universities.

HIPERION’s promoters claim to have recorded efficiency levels of 29% when Insolight’s systems were trialled pre-production, which they link to the use of planar optical micro-tracking to focus sunlight on multijunction solar cells installed atop conventional silicon backplanes.

“[An efficiency of] 29% is achieved within a planar concentrator. Thanks to micro-tracking, light is focused (~200 times) on small 1mm2 III-V/Ge solar cells,” Christophe Ballif, VP of Photovoltaics & Energy Systems at CSEM, explained when approached by PV Tech this week. According to him, the certified efficiency was even higher with smaller devices, reaching 36.4%.

“Most importantly the new generation also includes a backplane low-cost silicon modules. This means that the system will continue to work under diffuse or cloudy conditions, with the efficiency of silicon, and will still capture diffuse light on sunny days,” Ballif added.

CPV players in bid to turn the page after tough years

The rise of a new CPV-type proponent comes after tough years for players in the segment, as a failure to keep costs in check made large-scale success an unattainable prospect for many. HIPERION, Insolight’s CEO said in a statement this week, will try and bring the milestone closer by showcasing its technology to solar manufacturers at qualification tests and commercial pilot sites.

CSEM’s Ballif believes the technology’s viability was already evidenced by tests so far across various European locations. “First prototypes without Si backplane have been on the field, on 0.4m2 modules, showing robust tracking and conversion efficiency,” he says. Outdoors trials for over a year showed modules did not degrade, enduring winter conditions, heatwaves and storms, he adds.

Quizzed by this publication, Ballif claims no major technological weakness has emerged so far but concedes “a lot of work” remains necessary to optimise system optics, micro-tracking and find competitive assembly solutions. The consortium’s mix of researchers, module makers, actuator providers and others makes it well positioned to tackle all these challenges, he claims.

Show me your money

Pressed over how HIPERION will overcome the long-time nemesis of CPV schemes – uncompetitive levelised costs of energy (LCOEs) – Ballif declined to provide specifics for now. “We have our first estimates of LCOEs but we want to move forward with the project, which will give us a better estimation of the potential and the costs,” he said.

According to the CSEM VP, the HIPERION consortium has a particular avenue in mind for Insolight’s technology to start inching towards mass success. “The product will clearly not start addressing large solar parks, but focus first on space-constrained systems where there is much more value to efficiency,” he explained, pointing at rooftops as an example.

The technology, Ballif insisted, is a “different product” to what he described as “conventional” CPV predecessors. He added: “Besides, the technology involves a few module-level assembly steps, which can be “added” at the end of existing production lines, taking leverage of production capacities already in place. No complex cleanroom processes are required.”

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Q CELLS achieves 91% bankability score in latest BloombergNEF survey

‘Solar Module Super League’ (SMSL) member, Q CELLS scored a 91% bankability rating in the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BloombergNEF) latest Solar Module & Inverter Bankability 2019 report.

The 91% bankability rating was achieved within BloombergNEF’s survey as part of the full report that asks banks, funds, developers, EPCs and technical due diligence firms, which brands out of 48 modules manufacturers they considered bankable.

Q CELLS CEO Hee Cheul (Charles) Kim said: “The DNA of Q CELLS has always been – and will always be – rooted in our commitment to product quality and reliability. With such a foundation, Q CELLS has been able to grow into a trusted solar brand that continuously delivers excellent quality and unbeatable peace of mind for the customer. Our robust financial footing and bankability – as recognised by BloombergNEF – is a testament to this mindset, which always seeks to place technical excellence at the forefront of everything the Company does.”

Q CELLS has approximately 10.7GW of module production capacity at four manufacturing facilities in the Malaysia, China, South Korea and recently opened its first major module assembly plant in the US as the company is the largest module supplier to the residential rooftop market in the country. 

First PV module supplier bankability ratings tool created by PV Tech research team

PV-Tech research team has recently introduced a new methodology that allows leading PV module producers to be categorised by manufacturing and financial strength metrics, ultimately providing an investor-risk (or bankability) profile for non-residential end-market selection, which has been detailed on six articles on PV-Tech.org.

The output from the analysis – undertaken by the PV-Tech research team over the past five years – will form a key part of my opening talk at the forthcoming PV ModuleTech 2019 conference in Penang, Malaysia on 22-23 October 2019.

Finlay Colville, Head of Research, PV Tech & Solar Media will deliver online webinars over 21-22 August 2019 (register to watch here), and give the 45-minute opening talk at the forthcoming PV ModuleTech 2019 conference in Penang, Malaysia on 22-23 October 2019.

In particular, during the forthcoming webinar presentations on 21-22 August 2019, I will reveal for the first time which PV module suppliers fall into the highest PV ModuleTech Bankability ratings grade today.

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Wuxi Suntech ranked seventh in BloombergNEF bankability survey

China-based PV module manufacturer, Wuxi Suntech Power Co has been ranked seventh highest in the latest Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BloombergNEF) ‘Solar Module & Inverter Bankability 2019’, report.

The new ranking, which enabled the company to climb 11 places in BloombergNEF’s latest bankability rating survey that asks banks, funds, developers, EPCs and technical due diligence firms, which brands out of 48 modules manufacturers they considered bankable.

Suntech is also represented the list of Top 15 BloombergNEF’s PV module bankability results and ranks Tier 1 in the BloombergNEF report as well as the world’s sixth most bankable PV module brand of all time, according to the company.

He Shuangquan, President of Suntech said, “Since launching 19 years ago, Suntech has striven to deliver high-quality, reliable and cost-effective PV products. Our ranking demonstrates that we have strong financial footing and are a trusted partner for projects, providing long-term and stable returns on investment for our customers.”

‘Solar Module Super League’ (SMSL) member LONGi Solar, a subsidiary of LONGi Green Energy Technology has achieved its highest ratings to date in the same report. 

First PV module supplier bankability ratings tool created by PV Tech research team

PV-Tech research team has recently introduced a new methodology that allows leading PV module producers to be categorized by manufacturing and financial strength metrics, ultimately providing an investor-risk (or bankability) profile for non-residential end-market selection, which has been detailed on six articles on PV-Tech.org.

The output from the analysis – undertaken by the PV-Tech research team over the past five years – will form a key part of my opening talk at the forthcoming PV ModuleTech 2019 conference in Penang, Malaysia on 22-23 October 2019.

Finlay Colville, Head of Research, PV Tech & Solar Media will deliver online webinars over 21-22 August 2019 (register to watch here), and give the 45-minute opening talk at the forthcoming PV ModuleTech 2019 conference in Penang, Malaysia on 22-23 October 2019.

In particular, during the forthcoming webinar presentations on 21-22 August 2019, I will reveal for the first time which PV module suppliers fall into the highest PV ModuleTech Bankability ratings grade today!

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LONGi Solar’s bankability ratings top 91% in latest BloombergNEF survey

‘Solar Module Super League’ (SMSL) member LONGi Solar, a subsidiary of LONGi Green Energy Technology, has achieved its highest ratings to date in the recently released Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) Solar Module & Inverter Bankability 2019, report.

Within BloombergNEF’s latest bankability rating survey that asks banks, funds, developers, EPCs and technical due diligence firms, which brands out of 48 modules manufacturers they considered bankable, LONGi Solar was rated 91% bankable, its highest ever ranking.

LONGi Solar was also ranked within BloombergNEF’s latest report as the most creditworthy module manufacturer. Its Altman-Z score of 3.1 indicates strong financial health and bankruptcy to be highly unlikely, and is the highest score among pure-play module manufactures, according to the report.

LONGI was the second most used brand with 1,447MW deals financed, according to the latest BloombergNEF’ report, out of its Top 15 PV module suppliers.

First PV module supplier bankability ratings tool created by PV Tech research team

PV Tech research team has recently introduced a new methodology that allows leading PV module producers to be categorised by manufacturing and financial strength metrics, ultimately providing an investor-risk (or bankability) profile for non-residential end-market selection, which has been detailed on six articles on PV-Tech.org.

The output from the analysis – undertaken by the PV Tech research team over the past five years – will form a key part of my opening talk at the forthcoming PV ModuleTech 2019 conference in Penang, Malaysia on 22-23 October 2019.

Finlay Colville, Head of Research, PV Tech & Solar Media, will deliver online webinars over 21-22 August 2019 (register to watch here), and give the 45-minute opening talk at the forthcoming PV ModuleTech 2019 conference in Penang, Malaysia on 22-23 October 2019.

In particular, during the forthcoming webinar presentations on 21-22 August 2019, I will reveal for the first time which PV module suppliers fall into the highest PV ModuleTech Bankability ratings grade today.

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PV ModuleTech Talk: George Touloupas, Director of Technology & Quality at Clean Energy Associates

The third PV ModuleTech conference takes place in Penang, Malaysia on 22-23 October 2019, with the agenda of speakers, companies and topics largely complete. One of the key companies presenting at PV ModuleTech this year is Clean Energy Associates, one of the industry leaders in factory auditing, inline monitoring of assembly lines and inspection of modules pre-shipment.

Recently, PV-Tech took the opportunity to catch up with George Touloupas, the Director of Technology and Quality at Clean Energy Associates and a key partner at the forthcoming PV ModuleTech 2019 meeting in Penang in October this year. 

We talked about some of the new industry trends in module manufacturing and technology, and what attendees of PV ModuleTech 2019 can expect to hear from the company’s presentation at the event.

For starters, it would be good to get an update on business operations at CEA; how much has business grown and what have been the key changes with new projects in the past couple of years?

George Touloupas: “CEA’s current track record of engagements is over 35 GW of projects, growing fast, but this figure includes not just quality assurance services, but also takes into account  engineering services (onsite inspections, owners engineering etc.) and supply chain management services (running RFPs, technical advisory on contracts, market intelligence etc.). We currently have more than 100 professionals, with over 70% of them being engineers and we keep hiring at a pace, as we have now fully launched the same range of services for the Storage sector. CEA’s service offering has increased dramatically both in breadth and volume in the last 2-3 years. We are now offering a more holistic service to our clients, because that’s exactly what they need when they plan the procurement of GW-sized pipelines, some coupled with storage, amid trade wars, fast changing markets and massive technology shifts.”
 
Where is most of the effort today for CEA? Is this factory auditing, inline monitoring or pre-shipment inspection? Is this likely to remain the same split in business activities over the next 12 months also?

Factory audits are always in constant demand, as new facilities are being built, new players become important and old players make a come-back. Clients who are new entrants in PV also typically need factory audit reports for their financiers. CEA always recommends the performance of a factory audit at a facility, if we haven’t been there recently or we don’t have confidence in the quality performance, for example in the case that a new product will be manufactured. Now, with respect to the manufacturing of a project, I would say that for more than 90% of the projects where we have quality assurance activities, we perform both inline production monitoring and pre-shipment inspection. These 2 auditing activities are indeed complimentary, in the sense that each one screens out quality deficiencies that may elude the other. For example, it is impossible to detect certain critical BoM [Bill of Materials] violations by doing pre-shipment inspection only. Daily inline monitoring is essential to validate that the right BoM is used in production. 

The Southeast Asia region has seen strong factory investments for cell and module assembly during the past five years. How have these fabs been performing, according to CEA? And how do they benchmark against the best-in-class Chinese module fabs?

The truth is that the investment in crystalline silicon module manufacturing in South East Asia (I’d single out First Solar’s CdTe investment, which is a different story), has been, and still is, very opportunistic and entirely dependent on global trade war outcomes. As the abolition of the European MIP last year demonstrated, where the entire manufacturing volume switched to China overnight, the cost of manufacturing in China is unbeatable. Although the manufacturers take all possible measures to reduce the cost and take advantage of the Chinese raw material supply chain efficiencies and the dilution of R&D and other overheads through global vertical integration, the cost of manufacturing in South East Asia is at least 5% higher than in China. This fact, combined with the fickleness of trade wars, renders any long-term investment initiative very risky. As a result, we have big OEM operations, like Vina’s in Vietnam, where mainstream manufacturers “line-up” to produce for the US markets. In fact, this instability and unwillingness to properly invest in upgrades and expansions has created a demand-supply imbalance for the US market, that is forecasted to continue for at least the next year, driving high premiums into the prices. Chinese manufacturing lines, on the other hand, are methodically upgraded, expanded and fitted with the latest technology, and staffed with the best quality teams. CEA is continuously making efforts to ensure that quality is not compromised when products are made in South East Asia. Fortunately, our US clients are very much quality conscious, and we are working closely with them to make this happen.

Module assembly lines have seen rapid technology upgrade steps introduced in the past 2-3 years, driven by PERC, half-cut cell use and new materials being used. Many times, the module makers describe these changes as routine, but with changes in BoMs, supply-chains and new process tools, should we be considering these new lines, from an inline monitoring perspective?

It’s true that the amount and pace of changes in the recent couple of years has been phenomenal, following a rather sleepy decade. This had to happen, as the race to the lowest LCOE is accelerating. The manufacturers can’t even keep up with testing new product variants for extended reliability, and the buyers have trouble figuring out what’s best for them in this colourful range of product offerings. With the proliferation of wafer sizes, even module power comparison becomes a riddle. This cascade of changes is far from being routine and the manufacturers go through painful learning curves during mass production ramp ups, but they naturally prefer to keep a low profile about this. The reality is that buyers don’t have the luxury to be conservative and be left out of the game by competitors acquiring stronger technologies, therefore, these advanced products enter mass production sooner than one would expect in a mature industry, so a solution to the quality risk problems has to be found, irrespective. Over the years, CEA has built an extended network of deep relations with all important manufacturers, R&D personnel, CTOs and test labs. This gives us a unique advantage in identifying the quality risks well in advance of being widely known and in implementing the right safeguards during the quality assurance oversight activities, before, during and after production. 

Pre-shipment inspection must also be evolving beyond historical EL and IV testing processes. How much has PERC changed the landscape in terms of inspection metrics? Similarly, are other module technology changes demanding new means of inspecting modules pre-shipment?

As stressed before, it is essential to not only perform pre-shipment inspection, but also inline monitoring to screen out most risks. The monofacial modules using PERC [Passivated Emitter Rear Cell] cells do not require substantially different safeguards, but bifacial modules have more areas prone to quality risks to focus on, such as the glass-glass lamination and the power measurement. Moreover, the well-known LID [Light Induced Degradation] and less well known LeTID [Light and elevated Temperature Induced Degradation] risks which are more pronounced with PERC cells demand the introduction of rigorous but practical batch testing protocols before shipment. Even if the products have passed these tests at an initial phase, process and material instabilities can still be subject to deviations and create risks.

Clean Energy Associates has been a loyal supporter of the PV ModuleTech events since they started. What new topics would you like to hear from other parts of the value-chain, at the event in October?

The product technology choice is fundamentally a financial decision, almost entirely based on LCOE [Levelized Cost of Electricity] optimization and, with the rise of storage, on energy asset dispatchability as well. I would like to see more content and presentations of case studies from end users where this area, which can be very complex to optimize, is more thoroughly explored.

And finally, what will the CEA presentation be focusing on during the event?

We will present quality data and some very interesting insights from our statistical analysis of the data, which were collected from many GWs of projects using diverse technologies.
 
Thanks George – look forward to catching up in Penang in October!

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PV ModuleTech 2019: Q&A with Luca Votta from testing and certification services firm Kiwa

PV ModuleTech will be returning to Penang, Malaysia on 22-23 October 2019. The agenda sessions and topics at PV ModuleTech 2019 will focus on the key global issues today in terms of module technology, quality, and reliability – specific to large-scale module purchasing decisions over the next 12-18 months.

As an event partner at this year’s PV ModuleTech, PV-Tech took the time to catch up with Luca Votta, International Business Manager Solar & Wind at Kiwa Group to find out what he is looking forward to from this year’s event and what we can expect from Kiwa.

Kiwa provides testing and certification services across a wide range of sectors, including PV Modules and inverters in order to help identify reliable partners and quality products.

Firstly, what is new with Kiwa today, with the changes that have occurred in the industry over the past few months?

Luca Votta: ”Solar Market changed a lot in the last 2 years and especially in the last few months. The core business of Kiwa in Solar is relates to TIC services (Testing – Inspection – Certification). Our clients historically are PV Solar Manufacturers and Inverters Manufacturers. Today Kiwa is expanding its services more and more on financial and technical due diligences for Investors, Buyers, Installers through dedicated services directly on-field or directly on the production facilities. Kiwa is well established in Europe with several labs for Solar, out main target now is to expand ourselves in SE Asia and North America.”

At what point in the project development is Kiwa typically brought in?

“Normally at the beginning of the project. The scope of work is defined together with manufacturers (in the case of TIC services) or with buyers and Investors (before the deal between the buyer and the final provider of the PV modules/Inverters/Batteries)”

What issues are people concerned about at the moment specifically for testing and inspections? Do you see any trends in the types of questions people are asking about their projects or products?

“Most of the trends are related to bankability items. Investors would like to buy good products from reliable partners. Stakeholders ask for dedicated services in order to ensure the quality of the goods. 

Moreover, we see a trend in the production processes as well, where the necessity to increase the efficiency of the products keeping the final price competitive, led companies to create innovative products (prototypes). Today we are testing a lot of patented prototypes, that can create a real market innovation, particularly in the field of photovoltaic modules. One of the topics I would like to present at the next PV Module Tech in Penang is an R&D case of study of one of these prototypes we have tested in our Kiwa facilities.”

In your opinion, what is the most important question that an investor should be asking both before and after the build process?

“In recent years there have been many companies in the solar market that have gone bankrupt because of insolvency. Especially with regard to component manufacturers. The main problem in my opinion is the long-term reliability of the products. 

Is the product I’m buying reliable? What can I do to increase the confidence level I have in the supplier? Will I be able to claim my guarantee in the coming years?”

As one of our partners at PV ModuleTech 2019 what will you be talking about during your presentation and what do you hope will be the key takeaways?

SE Asia market is not completely aware about Kiwa and the solar services Kiwa can offer to the main stakeholders. The main intention for us at the next PV Module Tech is to present, on one hand, our global portfolio of services for the Primary and the Secondary solar market. But I do not want to boring the audience too much, so my idea is to show why Kiwa is different respect the other Notified Bodies, which is our plus. We are reliable, fast and quite cheap, but most of all we work really close with the customers with the intention to support them in the development of their business. For this reason, as mentioned above, one of the topics I would like to present at the next PV Module Tech in Penang is an R&D very successful case of study we have worked on in the last 2 years.

 

PV ModuleTech will be returning to Penang, Malaysia on 22-23 October 2019.

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PVCellTech Talk: Q&A with Jenya Meydbray, CEO, PV Evolution Labs

Leading up to the fourth PV CellTech conference in Penang on 12-13 March 2019, we continue our series of interviews with leading PV industry stakeholders from across the entire value-chain, connected by the same common goal of wanting to know how PV technology will advance over the next 12-18 months.

During previous PV CellTech events, and also our sister event held each October (PV ModuleTech), one of the most active participants has been Jenya Meydbray, currently the CEO of PV Evolution Labs (PVEL).

During the past couple of years, Jenya’s interest in PV technology and module quality (the two pillars of PV CellTech and PV ModuleTech, respectively) has been evident through his active interest in the two events. Until recently, Jenya held previous roles at DNV-GL (from which PV Evolution Labs emerged recently) and Cypress Creek Renewables; companies that are very much involved with modules, and not directly at the cell production stage.

However, while many downstream companies are focused only on what the local sales rep is offering them today from a module standpoint, the market-leaders in project development, EPC work and module quality/testing/inspection look far more closely at PV cell trends, as developments here are forming the basis of mainstream PV module supply about 12-18 months later.

On returning to PV CellTech 2019 as an avid participant, PV-Tech invited Jenya to moderate one of the sessions, and ahead of the event on 12-13 March 2019, we took the chance to ask Jenya some questions and observations on PV cell technology, from his more ‘downstream’ focus in the industry. The following is a summary of the discussion between PV CellTech chair and head of research at PV-Tech (Finlay Colville) and Jenya:

Finlay Colville: Welcome back to PV CellTech, Jenya. Before we look at technology issues and the event next week, could you give a quick update on how things have been going at PV Evolution Labs since your return as CEO and the new plans for 2019?

Jenya Meydbray: Hello Finlay, it’s great to be heading back to PV CellTech. Since PVEL [PV Evolution Labs] relaunched in January, the market reaction has been excellent. Our labs are busier than ever. Cell and module technology are both evolving faster today than ever before, and this is driving demand for third-party reliability and performance testing. Developers and financial institutions must have confidence in new technology before they can deploy it. PVEL’s services – especially our Product Qualification Programs (PQPs) for modules, inverters and batteries – are as relevant today as they were when I co-founded PVEL nearly a decade ago.

Many downstream players now recognize that crystalline silicon technology is not all the same. Reality has shown us that new aging mechanisms and operational characteristics can impact a project’s financial success, potentially both positively and negatively. For example, light and elevated temperature induced degradation (LeTID) surprised many when PERC started to gain market share. Similarly, there are unknown benefits and risks to glass vs. clear backsheets, bifacial modules, conductive adhesives, shingling, larger wafers, n-type cells, alternative encapsulants, and cast mono, to name just a few of the new technologies that PVEL is currently testing. That’s the key reason I’m looking forward to PV CellTech. It’s the best place to learn about trends in real commercial cell production capacity as we develop the next generation of PVEL’s cell and module qualification tests. 

We have many people and companies attending PV CellTech each year from the downstream segments – mostly global developers – and also test/inspection labs and IE’s. But we don’t often have people that have experience in both these roles! So maybe we can look at the next question from the combined viewpoint of the downstream ‘segment’ as a whole: can you sum up why developers, EPCs and investors need to understand PV technology today?

Since project development is a time-consuming undertaking, most firms are forced into bidding very competitive PPAs today based on pricing and yields for construction that may be years in the future, especially for larger projects. Project economic success is typically measured in Net Present Value (NPV), which is basically a measure of forecasted cash flows and the cost to build and operate the project. It’s impossible to win competitive PPAs without knowing where PV technology is heading and how these advancements will impact price and yield.

Historically, a lot of developers got burned by making assumptions that were too aggressive or by implementing equipment that didn’t meet yield or reliability expectations. Similarly, a lot of developers saw windfall profits from pricing that plummeted faster than anyone couldve predicted. It’s a tough game and nobody has the crystal ball. PVEL [PV Evolution Labs] helps our downstream partners avoid the downfalls of selecting equipment that will not meet expectations.

One of the issues I often see with developers is that they have a quick dive into PV technology and module supply rather on an ad-hoc basis, and then base their site designs and component suppliers/technologies based upon this for some time. However, with the rate of change of technology, how can developers best plan for changes in module performance and technology?

I absolutely agree that this is fairly common practice. The problem is that most technology and most vendors aren’t relevant until they are. That is to say, most developers don’t proactively diligence equipment on an ongoing basis. They wait until they’re ready to buy. This is why an independent party like PVEL can help by maintaining up-to-date data on a wide variety of vendors. When developers are ready for that ad hoc review, PVEL has the information they need for a truly deep dive. We currently support over 300 downstream partner companies. 

The module reliability scorecard provides an excellent reference for investors today. Should we expect to see changes to this during the next 12 months and what factors are driving this from a cell/module production standpoint?

Our goals for the PV Module Reliability Scorecard are to support and educate the industry by publishing highlights from our research as a simple, free download. It also helps us raise the profile of our manufacturer clients that perform well in reliability testing. Investors and other stakeholders can clearly identify the manufacturers who make quality and reliability their top priorities by reviewing the Scorecard rankings over time.

We’re happy that in 2019 we’re continuing to work with DNV GL on the Module Scorecard as a joint publication. This year’s report will be released mid-year and will feature most manufacturers of relevance and some new vendors that are working hard to expand market share. It will highlight long-term trends that we’ve identified over nearly 10 years of module testing as well as the new reliability testing methodologies that will be used in our module Product Qualification Program in 2019-2020.

PV CellTech 2019 will feature much discussion around the potential availability of advanced n-type modules, being offered to non-China located utility-scale plants. This is a relatively new concept in the PV industry, with much of the premium performing modules being restricted to rooftop markets. Aside from successfully ramping new fabs with low-cost, what other factors should these manufacturers consider, before they embark on global sales and marketing campaigns?

There are several important characteristics of advanced technology that will drive adoption over time. Developers that are early adopters of the right new technology will have an important jump start over the market. I’m surprised by how many PV module sales representatives still focus on dollars per STC watt exclusively. In my opinion, advanced technology such as n-type heterojunction can rightfully command a premium with bifaciality at over 90%, much lower temperature coefficients, potentially better low light performance, and higher STC efficiency. This all translates into more value in the field, and several percent of improved yield is worth several cents per Wp of project NPV. If the module premium is below that added value, everyone wins.

Once the industry determines how to properly value advanced technology it will catch on, just as PERC did a few years ago. Of course, choosing a new technology always has risks of new degradation and failure mechanisms, so it must be effectively vetted and qualified.

And finally, PV CellTech 2019 is just one week away. What are you hoping to learn about PV manufacturing technology over the course of the two days?

As we’ve discussed, there are many new exciting technologies being considered today with no obvious front runner yet. PV CellTech is the best place to gain insights into which technology is pulling ahead in technology and manufacturing capacity. What comes after PERC will be more clear after PV CellTech.

Thanks Jenya! We are all looking forward to your involvement at PV CellTech again, seeing you on stage doing your moderating duties, and sharing your inputs from PVEL’s standpoint, as they can best help the industry as a whole to keep offering higher-performing products with qualified reliability metrics that reduce the risk for institutional investors and long-term portfolio owners.

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PV ModuleTech 2018: Measuring new PV module technologies with Eternal Sun

Ahead of the forthcoming PV ModuleTech 2018 event in Penang, Malaysia on 23-24 October 2018, PV-Tech took the time to catch up with Pepijn Veling of Eternal Sun Group.

A key partner of the PV ModuleTech 2018 event, Eternal Sun Group includes both Eternal Sun (focusing on climate controlled steady-state light sources) and Spire Solar (focused on long-pulse simulators since 1980).

Which market needs are you trying to address at Eternal Sun Group?

“We see an increasing need from manufacturers, investors, EPCs and insurance companies to better understand the real performance of solar modules at different moments in time; end of manufacturing line, ownership transfer, installation and after the first years in the field.

Especially with the current oversupply and 20-25% drop in module prices due to the Chinese 531 policy, opportunities for downstream solar investments are massive. At the same time, lower module prices lead to fear for lower PV module quality among PV module buyers, who tell us they do not fully understand these new risks.

Investor confidence and risk mitigation are two of the biggest factors in allowing the growth of solar to continue. The winners in our industry will have the ability to forecast performance and degradation with smaller safety margins.”

How does Eternal Sun Spire address these concerns?

“Our mission is to contribute to the development and growth of the solar industry by enabling the highest degree of measurement control and certainty. We do this by providing high-end solar testing advice, technology & services.

Over the years we have developed testing tools for new PV module technologies (requiring broader spectrum and longer pulse), understanding energy yield in different regions and degradation effects like LID, LeTID but also regeneration; so, for testing new technologies, such as Perovskites, that require stabilization before performance testing. Our customers tell us that technology understanding and extremely accurate control of all variables (GR&R) is the only way to do this correctly.”

What were the main changes impacting business operations during 2017 and so far during 2018?

“After concluding the integration of the two companies in 2016, we spend most of 2017 developing three new products for 1) real long pulse performance testing (beyond 200ms), 2) energy rating and 3) LID of new technologies.

In 2018, the China 531 policy obviously puts the manufacturing market in China under huge pressure, however we are benefiting from our broad portfolio and global spread thus limiting the impact of China-531 on our strategic planning.

In fact, EPC customers tells us they fear module quality will drop along with the prices and therefore request us to support them, leading to new opportunities in our testing and certification market. It is for that reason that we opened a test lab ourselves in the harbor of Rotterdam in collaboration with Odin warehousing. 40% of all imported PV modules in Europe go through this specific location. EPC companies ask us to do a proper quality assessment before module ownership transfers to them.”

What are the impacts of new module technologies coming on the market?

“The whole industry agrees that new PV cell technologies require a longer pulse and a wider spectrum for accurate and real performance measurements. The new IEC 60904-9 Ed3 norm for sun simulators, of which committee we are member of, will include such new requirements. Leading institutes and manufacturers have recently decided for our single long pulse technology, because it allows them to do a real measurement of even the highest efficiency technologies.

Other simulator technologies like short pulsed xenon or LED (limited spectrum) are forced to use software or offset corrections. Such corrections are difficult to set and in the end lead to undesired inaccuracies.”

ESG has been very vocal on LID in recent communication. Why?

“PV module buyers tell us they have difficulties understanding manufacturer LID claims while manufactures need more data to prove their claims. We at ESG agree that LID is a difficult topic.

It is about being able to accurately understand degradation, regeneration and elevated temperature degradation effects of new technologies. As mentioned earlier, we believe that those companies understanding this will be the most successful in the future. We see that leading institutes and manufacturers are embracing our technical solutions, whereas others are awaiting IEC 61215 LeTID norm developments for guidance or rely on alternative (less accurate) solutions.”

What are you looking forward to learning at PV ModuleTech 2018?

“For us, such conferences are a great platform to challenge our solutions against real customer needs. We highly appreciate the broad customer range; both upstream and downstream key players were well represented last year. Understanding the needs of the whole value chain is crucial for this industry to bloom.” 

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Hanwha Q CELLS reveals solar module products to be assembled in the US

‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member Hanwha Q CELLS has revealed its ‘Made in America’ product strategy ahead of the 2018 Solar Power International (SPI) Exhibition being held at the Anaheim Convention Center in California next week.

The SMSL said that it planned to address the three core markets in the US, utility-scale, residential and commercial when its affiliate company Hanwha Q CELLS (Korea) starts module assembly operations on behalf of the SMSL in 2019 at a 1.6GW-plus plant in Whitfield County, Georgia. 

As PV Tech recently highlighted, the Georgia plant is expected to begin operations in February 2019.

Key US assembled modules will include its Q.PEAK DUO BLK-G6 series, a follow-on development from the recently launched Q.PEAK DUO-G5 series, which won an Intersolar Award 2018.

The US made module will use P-type monocrystalline half-cut cells with at least six bus bars on its proprietary ‘Q.ANTUM’ PERC (Passivated Emitter Rear Cell) technology, which was said to have approximately 5% more output than the G5 series that is currently in the 330Wp range and used in residential and commercial rooftop sectors. These come with white or black backsheet configurations and is the core existing product offering in the US market.

The US utility-scale markets will be served by the Q.PLUS DUO L-G5.2, a P-type multicrystalline solar module with half-cut cells that has a maximum output of up to 370Wp in a 144-cell format.

In the future, Hanwha Q CELLS will introduce a US-centric version of its recently launched European Q.HOME+ ESS HYB-G2 system, which adds an inverter, scalable battery and smart energy management system for residential applications. 

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TÜV Rheinland certifies New-Tek’s solar module assembly plant in Kyrgyzstan

PV module assembly firm New-Tek in Kyrgyzstan has received TÜV Rheinland certifications related to IEC 61215:2016 and IEC 61730:2016 standards on module reliability. 

New-Tek opened its 50MW module assembly plant at the end of 2016, which was supplied as a turnkey plant by German-based PV equipment specialist, SCHMID Group. 

Dr. Eckart Janknecht, Project Manager for photovoltaic module qualifications at TÜV Rheinland said, “These certifications require a large number of intensive tests in our Cologne laboratory, such as mechanical, electrical, climatic and safety tests.

TÜV Rheinland noted that local Kyrgyzstan climate conditions were taken into account when undertaking the range of reliability tests, such as the hot summers and cold winters as well as the daily temperature fluctuations as part of new climate test sequences, according to IEC 61215:2016. 

Aside to the laboratory tests, on-site inspection of the manufacturing was also mandatory for certification, which includes checking that the manufacturer actually produces what has been tested by TÜV Rheinland and whether basic quality monitoring of the photovoltaic modules takes place and whether general quality requirements (based on ISO 9001) are met.

“With the exception of minor deviations that were subsequently corrected, production ran smoothly and the modules passed the tests without any problems,” added Dr. Janknecht.

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