Category: News

ISC Konstanz signs n-type bifacial and IBC cell technology transfer to Valoe for commercialisation

The International Solar Energy Research Center Konstanz e.V. (ISC Konstanz) has signed a technology transfer agreement with PV module assembly equipment supplier based in Finland for R&D centre’s advanced ‘BiSoN’ (Bifacial Solar cell On N-type) and ZEBRA (diffused n-type IBC) solar cell technology.

Valoe noted that it had acquired a solar cell production line from Megacell S.r.l., which was under liquidation, and a producer of bifacial n-PERT solar cells in Italy based on the ISC Konstanz technology.

Dr. Radovan Kopecek, CTO at ISC Konstanz and Managing Director of Advanced Cell Concepts: “We are very pleased to continue assisting you in developing ZEBRA further. Together with Valoe´s back contact module technology such a module using ZEBRA is very powerful at low costs. Valoe has, as one of the first companies in the world, developed a mass scale module manufacturing technology which makes the implementation of back contact solar cells into the module extremely simple, cost effective and with high yield. Further, Valoe’s technology makes it possible to use thinner solar cells. The PV market is now ready for such modules build on IBC cell technology for many new applications.”

Valoe also noted that it planned to transfer part of the production line to PV manufacturer Soli Tek Cells’ production facility in Lithuania to undertake volume production of IBC solar cells for customers of Valoe, sometime in 2019.

ZEBRA based IBC cells have reach conversion efficiencies of more than 23% and module efficiencies would be supported Valoe’s unique back contact module technology that can also handle ultra-thin N-type mono wafers, lowering production costs. 

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Wuxi Suntech providing half-cut cell modules to European customers

China-based integrated PV module manufacturer Wuxi Suntech Power Co said it had started supplying high-performance multicrystalline half-cut cell modules to European customers, offering power classes of 295/290W. 

The addition of the half-cut multi c-Si cell technology comes on the back of production in 2017 of its in-house developed metal assisted chemical etching (MACE) texturing process (black silicon) for diamond wire sawing, which was claimed to provide an absolute efficiency gain of up to 0.3%, compared with the additive direct texturing process.

Wuxi Suntech said that its half-cut cell technology enabled module power outputs of 5W to 10W higher than standard 156mm x 156mm multi c-Si, 60-cell module formats, reducing system costs with higher module efficiency. 

Module performance was also said to have been improved because of cell current losses by 50% with half-cut cell technology and cell temperature operation dropping by 20~25℃ compared to conventional modules, according to the company. 

The half-cut cell modules also use a distributed junction box design, with power loss reduced, due to a cross layout installation, noted Wuxi Suntech.

Shuangquan He, President of Wuxi Suntech said, “In the past 18 years, Suntech focused on cutting-edge technology innovation and provided high-quality and cost-effective products to our global partners. Now, we have cooperated with VDE for quality inspection certificate, VDE-QT, and continue to monitor the quality in quarterly mass production. At the same time, Suntech offered an industry-leading 12-year product warranty and a 25-year linear performance warranty reinsured by world-leading reinsurance company – Munich Re.

The company also noted that it offered WEEE recycling solutions for European customers. 

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LONGi restarts stalled solar cell and module manufacturing plans in India

Leading integrated high-efficiency monocrystalline module manufacturer and ‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member LONGi Green Energy Technology has officially reignited previously suspended manufacturing plans in Andhra Pradesh, India. 

LONGi said that it would invest US$309 million, including around US$240 million in constructing a new facility with an initial nameplate capacity of 1,000MW of monocrystalline solar cells and expand its mothballed 500MW module assembly plant to 1GW. 

The completed construction and start of production ramp of the new solar cell facility was expected in January 2020, while the expanded module assembly plant is expected to be completed and production ramp occur by the end of August 2019.

LONGi had previously suspended the entire project in 2017, due to delays in gaining funding for the project in India and has decided to split funding between the parent company and its previously established Indian subsidiary, by Lerri Solar Technology (India) Private Ltd, which is 40% owned by LONGi and 60% owned by LONGi Solar. 

“The expansion of our Andhra Pradesh factory is part of LONGi’s global growth strategy. While global demand for solar modules continues to grow, LONGi is making moderate capacity investments in select markets to hedge against the risks of trade protectionism, while remaining focused on the Chinese domestic market,” said Mr. Wenxue Li, the president of LONGi Solar. “According to preliminary estimates, the new expansion will support $380 million in annual sales and roughly $19 million in net profit every year.”

The company recently announced the tripling of ingot and wafer production through 2020 at its multiple manufacturing sites in China and its acquired facility in Malaysia. 

However, missing from the cell and module expansion announcement in India were plans to build wafering operations in India, which critically lacks this segment of the upstream manufacturing supply chain. 

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Trina Solar surpasses 9GW of solar module shipments in 2017

‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member Trina Solar has said it shipped over 9GW of PV modules globally in 2017, confirming its second place position in PV Tech’s Top-10 Module Suppliers annual rankings. 

The SMSL noted in a statement on its website that module shipments for the first three quarters of 2017 were 1,966MW, 2,481MW and 2,092MW, respectively. As a result fourth quarter shipments would have peaked at over 2,500MW. Trina Solar said that accumulated module shipments had exceeded 32GW.

Key markets for Trina Solar in 2017 were China, India and the US, while its global footprint is one of the broadest in the industry, highlighted by the fact it said it shipped and had distributed products to more than 100 countries. 

Trina Solar also retains its in-house solar power projects business, which constructs, operates and has sold projects in China, the UK, the US and other European and Asian countries.

The SMSL also noted that it had shipped over 3GW of modules to India in recent years, accounting for more than a 25% market share, according to company.

However, the China market has remained its largest market in the last few years. The company noted that in August, 2017 it launched its residential PV brand – ‘TrinaHome’ in China, which it claimed has quickly taking leading market position in the Distributed Generation market. 

The Company also noted that it was implementing the ‘One-Million Rooftop Plan’ over the course of the next five years to provide the Trina residential PV system installation service for more than one million households.
 
Trina Solar’s commercial projects were said to have achieved 500% growth with businesses covering 20 Chinese provinces and cities nationally, with strategic plans over the next three years in developing around 1,000 commercial partners to achieve over 10 million system sales.

PV Tech’s ‘Top-10 Module Suppliers in 2017’ has recently been published and has in recent years become the most widely accepted benchmark of leading global solar module shipment rankings in the industry and also remains the key metric for market share leadership and positioning.

Currently, the SMSL membership is made-up of seven companies identified in the past 12-18 months as the companies that were expected to be in the 4GW-plus annual shipment level in 2017, forming an exclusive grouping. 

SMSLs are also characterised by having several gigawatts of manufacturing capacity and shipments separating them from all other suppliers, including several companies that were included in the 2017 Top 10 rankings. 

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LONGi Solar takes P-type monocrystalline PERC module to verified 20.41% conversion efficiency

‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member LONGi Solar, a subsidiary of LONGI Green Energy Technology, the largest monocrystalline wafer producer in the world has reported that TUV-SUD has verified its P-type monocrystalline PERC module to have a conversion efficiency of 20.41%, a new industry record.

PV Tech previously reported that LONGi Solar had reached a world record conversion efficiency for a P-type monocrystalline PERC solar cell, certified by CPVT in China at 22.17% in April 2017 and in October the same year had Fraunhofer ISE CalLab in Germany verify other cells at a new record efficiency of 22.71%.

Further gains were reported less than two weeks later when the company reported a conversion efficiency of 23.26%, breaching the industry-accepted limit of 23% for a mass produced PERC cell.

Li Wenxue, President of LONGi Solar said, “The new world record for the conversion efficiency of LONGi Solar’s monocrystalline PERC module is the first major breakthrough in module efficiency. Through continuous technological innovations, we will bring more efficient monocrystalline module products to the market to help PV investors earn more power generation benefits and contribute to the cause for clean water and blue sky.”

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LONGi tripling monocrystalline wafer capacity to 45GW

Leading fully-integrated high-efficiency monocrystalline module manufacturer and ‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member LONGi Green Energy Technology has set a strategic plan to triple monocrystalline ingot and wafer capacity to 45GW in 2020. 

LONGi said in a financial filing that it achieved 15GW of monocrystalline wafer nameplate capacity by the end of 2017, up 2GW from previous plans as the company accelerated production ramps to meet demand. 

The new strategic plan, which is not a commitment to investors that it would action the plans and commit to the significant capital expenditures required, includes taking wafer capacity to 28GW by the end of 2018 and 36GW by the end of 2019. LONGi also said that the plan was to achieve 45GW by the end of 2020. 

PV Tech had previously reported that LONGi was fast-tracking various ingot and wafer expansion plans currently under construction and pulling in projects nearing completion where possible. 

In 2017, LONGi was undertaking the construction of a 5GW ingot production plant in Lijiang, China. The company also announced in early 2017 that Trina Solar and Tongwei, via its polysilicon subsidiary, Sichuan Yongxiang were to form a Joint Venture (JV) to own and operate the facility. LONGi also planned a 5GW ingot/wafer plant in Baoshan, China. 

The company had also expected to complete and have begun operating a 1GW wafer plant in Kuching, Malaysia at the end of the year. 

A 1GW ingot production plant in Ningxia was also expected to have started production in the fourth quarter of 2017.

As a result, LONGi’s target of 28GW of ingot/wafer nameplate capacity by the end of 2018 looks highly plausible. The tripling of capacity to 45GW would require a significant round of investments in the multi-billion dollar range.  

Reasons behind the wafer capacity expansion

As PV Tech has previously reported, Finlay Colville, Head of Solar Intelligence at Solar Media has projected that monocrystalline solar cell production is expected to account for 49% of all crystalline cell production in 2018 and become the dominant technology used in the PV industry by 2019, driven by LONGi.

The company is both supporting its own in-house cell and module capacity expansions but the key is its support for other monocrystalline solar cell production capacity expansions from merchant cell producers such as Aiko Solar and Tongwei Group as well as module manufacturers such as SMSL member, Trina Solar. 

LONGi has also been making significant investments in R&D, which is driving monocrystalline ingot and wafer technology efficiency and cost reduction strategies to further the adoption of monocrystalline products. 

R&D spending at LONGi puts it in the top league of industry spenders, which include CdTe thin-film leader, First Solar and high-efficiency cell and module leader, SunPower, according to PV Tech’s annual R&D spending report. 

The ingot and wafer capacity expansions go hand in hand with technology advancements at the R&D level, with the expected result that mono technology continues to expand market share and become the lowest cost high-efficiency end-products on the market. In 2017 for expample, LONGi ‘s production of P-type mono-facial PERC cell efficiency, as well as bifacial PERC cell front side efficiency, had reached 21.3% on average.

Although LONGi’s strategy is to retain its market leading position and be a global supplier, end market demand in China is also increasing and growth is expected to continue, notably for high-efficiency modules due to the ‘Top Runner’ program and the significant growth in the Distributed Generation (DG) market. 

Recent official figures put China’s solar installations at around 52.83GW in 2017, up from 34.54GW in 2016. China therefore accounted for around 50% of the global solar market in 2017. 

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LONGi plans new 5GW module assembly plant in China

Leading fully-integrated high-efficiency monocrystalline module manufacturer LONGi Green Energy Technology has signed a project investment agreement with local authorities in Chuzhou City, Anhui Province, China to build a new 5GW module assembly plant. 

LONGi said in a financial filing that the new mono-module assembly plant would be built in the Chuzhou Economic and Technological Development Zone in Anhui Province that required an investment of approximately RMB 1.95 billion (US$300 million) and take approximately 28 months to build and start manufacturing operations. LONGi’s solar cell and module assembly subsidiary, LONGi Solar would be responsible for the running of the plant, according to the project investment agreement. 

No timelines were given for the new project as the company said it still needed to undertake and complete an internal review process before committing to the project.

LONGi Solar expanded module assembly capacity by around 1.5GW in 2017 to reach at least 6.5GW of nameplate capacity.

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First Solar executives losing hair over first ‘Series 6’ panel produced

Leading thin-film manufacturer First Solar highlighted at its 2017 Analyst Day event that it had recently fabricated the first functional CdTe Series 6 thin-film panel at its Perrysburg, Ohio plant, which is spearheading the transition to the larger format at all of the company’s manufacturing plants based in Malaysia and Vietnam. 

First Solar said that the major milestone in a factory retooling that had started just under one year ago included approximately US$177 million in capital investment and a bet with the site engineers and employees that should the first panel be produced before the beginning of December then two of its executives would have their heads shaved. 

The executives having shaved heads the day after the analyst event are CTO, Raffi Garabedian and COO, Tymen deJong. 

The new production line at the Perrysburg plant for Series 6 panels was said to have an initial 600MW capacity.

“This is an extraordinary accomplishment, by any measure,” said First Solar CEO Mark Widmar. “Last November, we were in full Series 4 production mode. Since our decision at the end of 2016 to rapidly transition to Series 6, we’ve hit every incremental target with precision. We are absolutely delighted to be on track for delivery of commercial product early next year.”

New production plant in Vietnam

Also during the meeting with analysts, First Solar announced that it is expanding its production facility in Vietnam, essentially doubling production capacity of the initial site, which is still under construction. 

Annualized production capacity in Vietnam, when fully operational, will be 2.4GWdc. This, in combination with Perrysburg and facilities in Kulim, Malaysia, will give First Solar a total Series 6 manufacturing capacity of approximately 5.4GWdc by 2020, and represents approximately US$1.4 billion in capital investment.

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LONGi highlights strategic goals at inaugural PV ModuleTech

‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member and the largest integrated monocrystalline manufacturer LONGi Green Energy Technology revealed its key strategic goals for 2019 at the inaugural PV ModuleTech conference being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

In a key presentation, “The mono transition to high performance PERC and bifacial modules as the industry standard,” Dr. Qiangzhong Zhu, assistant vice president at LONGi Solar, highlighted its drive to provide the solar industry with the products to back-up the transition to monocrystalline technology.  

With its recent marketing launch of PV 3.0, encompassing the next wave of high-performance, high-reliability and high energy yield modules and systems, Dr. Zhu noted that PV 3.0 also embraces cost competitiveness and, with P-type mono PERC (Passivated Emitter Rear Cell) technology, could achieve conversion efficiencies of around 24.5%, highlighting work undertaken by ISFH  in modelling advanced metallization processes and multi-wire with fine-line fingers with PERC to achieve such conversion rates. 

The company recently announced two cell conversion efficiency records of 22.71%, verified by Fraunhofer ISE CalLab and 23.26%, verified by CPVT in China.

Such will be the transition to mono PERC that LONGi believes modules with mono cells may make up over half of all module capacity by 2020, providing around 61GW of supply, and that most of the modules would be using mono cells with PERC technology.  

However, according to Dr Zhu, to achieve these goals, high-quality wafers are important for PERC efficiency gains topping 24% targets. Using a third-party demo plant in Taizhou, China had demonstrated that the energy yield of its Hi-MO1 mono-PERC module was about 3% higher than a polycrystalline module. The energy yield gain of Hi-MO1 was said to be mainly attributable to better low irradiation performance and improved temperature coefficient. 

Bifacial advantage

LONGi is also focusing a lot of attention towards bifacial modules and Dr Zhu highlighted the importance of the dual glass frame design required to limit edge breakage and make installations easier. 

Testing at the demo plant in Taizhou also highlighted the yield benefits of single-axis trackers with bifacial modules, a combination which could raise the bifacial gain to over 30%, compared with a gain of almost 12% in conjunction with a fixed mounting system.

Dr. Zhu expects bifacial to become the future direction of PERC modules, primarily due to the potential for high energy yield gains.

Following the first day’s conference sessions, Ngieng Sii Jing, the CEO of LONGi Kuching in Malaysia, gave a short address to delegates, echoing Dr. Zhu’s closing presentation remarks that mono-PERC capacity would increase dramatically and would be instrumental in ushering in the era of PV 3.0. 

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Plain vanilla vs module innovation – PV ModuleTech 2017

PV module manufacturers hoping to get new technologies taken up by the market quickly and at scale need to generate as much information as possible from testing houses and certification bodies for the finance community to consider their product, according to a representative of one of the world’s largest solar developers.

In the absence of five years or more of “compelling field data” in module innovations such as bifacial and mono-PERC configurations, the next best thing a manufacturer can do is to work extra hard in getting additional testing, factory audits and bankability reports, said Jenya Meydbray, VP of solar technology at Cypress Creek Renewables, a US-based company that has developed more than 5GW of solar projects.

On the opening day of PV ModuleTech 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, one of the key topics was how to progress the newest technologies into large-scale deployment, while also giving financiers and developers confidence in the product. Indeed, “building trust” was a key theme repeated by the many third-party testing houses and certification bodies present.

PV ModuleTech acts as platform for stakeholders across the supply chain to voice their concerns and wishes and in this panel discussion, Meydbray offered some key advice to the major global module suppliers present.

He said projects are driven predominantly by financing, so while manufacturers may assume they can sell a better performing module with new technology at a higher price, the banks want to know the module lifespan, its degradation, energy yields and a whole host of other factors before making any decisions.

Meydbray added: “If you start to add new technologies, even if its just a half-cut cell, shingling, PERC or if its n-PERC bifacial, or if its something more exotic, then the understanding of how that thing performs in the field is much poorer and we have to rely more on testing.”

Independent engineers representing banks tend to be conservative in such situations, so finance concentrates on the tried and tested or “plain vanilla” technologies that have been financed many times already. They look for 5+ years of field-testing, a requirement that would “decimate” new industry innovations, unless the extra work is put in to sourcing independent accelerated lifetime testing, audits, and bankability studies.

“The more data that exists, the less conservative and the more realistic we can be when we are putting the plants together,” Meydbray added.

Another complementary piece of advice was for manufacturers to put new module prototypes in the field as soon as they are ready, because even just six months of data is better than none.

Various testing regimes were explained by representatives of the whole supply chain on stage from materials (DuPont), manufacturing (JinkoSolar), certification (TUV Rheinland), quality assurance (Clean Energy Associates – CEA), to the developer (Cypress Creek). However, a Meyer Berger representative said there seemed to be “no easy pass” for any innovative technology to break through in the market.

Meydbray replied: “How do we get the industry innovating faster? We don’t. We are power generators. We are a power industry. We don’t innovate that fast. Bifacial and PERC existed 20-years ago; that’s not new technology and there’s still very little of it in the field because new innovation has to enter in a methodical way because we have two, three decades of service life expectation. That’s what makes the economics work.”

Paul Wormser, vice president of client solutions at CEA, who had earlier laid out the importance of highly stringent assessment of even the most minor changes in module architecture, said: “I don’t think we are opposed to innovation, but we want to be careful about innovation sort of skipping over the required confidence building steps.

“We want to know that the selection of that innovation was built on a foundation of knowledge of something that came before it. We want to know that that innovation was rigorously evaluated, that it’s really understood, the reaction kinetics, the mechanism in action and are they addressed.

“Innovation is a great thing, but lets not be penny-wise and pound foolish by bringing an innovation to market before its got some history or some validation. It doesn’t need 30 years of validation, but an understanding and appreciation that builds confidence and builds trust is essential.”

Bart Lucarelli, MD, power and utilites at AWR Lloyd, said the solution could be for module manufacturers to take the risk themselves and set up demonstration plants with their own new modules.

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