Author: PV-Tech

R&D spending analysis of 21 PV manufacturers

PV Tech has been covering analysis of R&D expenditures of PV manufacturers for over a decade. This blog looks at some of the key trends, which are being detailed in full in the forthcoming edition of technical journal Photovoltaics International.

This is the second sequential year that R&D spending exceeded the US$1.0 billion level, although down slightly from US$1,086.86 million (US$1.08 billion) cumulative annual R&D spending of these 21 key PV manufacturers, in 2017. 

Spending pattern divergence

It is interesting to note that R&D spending doubled over a five-year period, growing from 2013 (US$504 million) to 2017 ((US$1.08 billion). Almost all 21 PV manufacturers under analysis were public in 2013 and all had reached that status by 2014. 

However, a continued trend since 2014 has been the growing number of companies that lowered R&D spending, compared to those increasing spending on a year-on-year basis.

Only two companies lowered R&D spending in 2014, while the crossover point was reached in 2017, when 10 companies reduced spending compared to the previous year. This trend continued in 2018, as for the first time the number of companies lowering R&D spending (11) exceeded the number (9) increasing spending on this front.  

There are also two companies (First Solar and Yingli Green) that have lowered spending for four consecutive years since 2015. 

In the 2018 analysis, two companies (Eging PV and Hareon Solar) have lowered spending for three consecutive years, while two companies (ZJ Sunflower, Wuxi Suntech and ) had lowered spending for two consecutive years.

The spending pattern divergence is primarily driven by the financial condition of some of the companies, such as Yingli Green, Hareon Solar, SunPower and others in the past. 

However, the growing number of companies reducing spending in 2018, is also due to the weaker downstream PV market in China, after the Chinese government announced the ‘531 New Deal’ that put a halt to utility-scale and DG markets, as installations were viewed to have far exceeded plans and the market was subsequently overheating. 

It is also interesting to note that due to this trend, only two companies since 2012 (LONGi Group and Zhongli Talesun) have consistently increased R&D spending, year-on-year.

Other companies that increased spending in 2018, included: JinkoSolar, Canadian Solar, SunPower, Tongwei, Hanergy Thin Film, URE, TZS and Comtec. 

The chart below covers the last five years of annual R&D spending of the 21 key PV manufacturers.

The chart shows a group of five companies (First Solar, LONGi Group, Hanergy Thin Film, SunPower and GCL Group) are clearly separated from the pack by a minimum of over US$100 million in cumulative R&D spending over the last five years. 

Despite First Solar and SunPower dropping in the annual rankings, the changes over a five-year period are less pronounced for First Solar, which remains the cumulative R&D spending leader.

These companies are in the high US$500 million spending range through to the low US$400 million spending range, over the last five years. 

However, SunPower’s position dropped two places in the 2018 rankings and has also been replaced by LONGi Group and Hanergy Thin Film in the last five year period. However, GCL Group was closing in fast in SunPower until a significant reduction in R&D spending took place in 2018. 

LONGi Group and Hanergy Thin Film have been two of the three fastest growing companies in terms of R&D spending, notably in the last three years as shown in the chart.

The chart also highlights that three companies (Zhongli Talesun, TZS and Tongwei Group) have formed a second strong group accelerating R&D spending in the last four of five years. 
Zhongli Talesun, TZS and Tongwei Group have an R&D spending range between the very high US$200 million level to mid US$250 million level. 

Below TZS, things also look interesting as the low levels of spending by Yingli Green in the last three years highlight its declining position in the rankings, while Hareon Solar collapsed.

That means the accelerated R&D spending by Risen Energy, JinkoSolar and Canadian solar in the last two years underscores the ability to move ahead of Yingli Green very soon. 

However, it also indicates that they remain a significant distance behind the second leading pack of Zhongli Talesun, TZS and Tongwei Group. Despite the potential to climb slowly up the ranking, primarily because otherS are falling by the wayside, there is every chance the gap to the second group will widen, locking the two major SMSL members in lower middle range rankings. 

This may also be exacerbated by the expected return of two other SMSL members, Trina Solar and JA Solar into the R&D analysis in 2019, as they return to Chinese stock markets. 

As for those companies below Canadian Solar, five years of R&D spending have mainly highlighted the chasm to the lead and secondary leadership group that increasingly looks insurmountable. 

On a side note, we always get questions over the fact that we have previously not published data and charts related to companies’ R&D expenditure as a percentage of revenue. In the past, a key reason was the almost universal rule that companies’ R&D expenditure as a percentage of revenue lay in the 0.8%-to-3% range. The exception had always been First Solar and Sunpower with higher percentages. 

Plotting that in charts would have just shown a very thick slightly wavering line with two occasional spikes. Basically, not much use at all.

However, there is more variability today, so we have shown two examples of R&D expenditure as a percentage of revenue.

 

In the first sample chart, we have included First Solar and Sunpower to represent the historical high-end of R&D expenditure as a percentage of revenue as well as the inclusion of the two major SMSL’s (JinkoSolar and Canadian Solar) that had been perennial laggards in total annual R&D spending. We have also included a typical example of a relatively small PV manufacturer in the form of Eging PV. 

This selection of companies is a good representation of the historical highs and lows of R&D expenditure as a percentage of revenue.

A key takeaway is that proprietary technology used by First Solar and Sunpower requires, compared to the others, much higher R&D expenditure as a percentage of revenue.

However, being laggards in total annual R&D expenditure as well as a percentage of revenue has historically had little negative impact on JinkoSolar and Canadian Solar, as both have become the largest crystalline PV module manufacturers in the world today. 

In the second sample chart below, we have included three major, China-based integrated PV manufacturers, LONGi Group, TZS and GCL Group and arguably the most closely matched from a business model perspective. 

The main deviation here is that GCL Group can be deemed as the historical major incumbent and has been the largest company in the PV industry by revenue and scale in polysilicon and multicrystalline wafer capacity for many years. 

LONGi Group and TZS have become fast growing companies that have strong R&D spending regimes coupled to strong revenue growth. Indeed, in 2018 both companies R&D expenditure as a percentage of revenue declined at almost the same rates but the reality was that both companies’ total revenue significantly increased over the previous year, while R&D spending increased but clearly at a slower pace than revenue. 

In contrast, GCL Group reported markedly lower revenue in 2018, compared to the previous year. GCL Group companies significantly cut R&D spending, year-on-year, due to financial constraints, causing R&D expenditure as a percentage of revenue to decline. 

Therefore, it could be argued that emerging major players displaying high R&D spending in the last five years have gained significant market share against an historical incumbent. However, GCL has been an investor in TZS as well as SunPower, muddying the waters for a clear-cut comparison. 

Despite continued upheaval in the companies being tracked and those untracked that will surely occur in 2019 as well, it remains somewhat remarkable that over US$1.0 billion was allocated in R&D expenditure in 2018.

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PV industry benchmarks for module technology and bankability are driven by JinkoSolar

The PV industry roadmap – and related metrics of technology and bankability – are now being driven by leading module supplier, JinkoSolar, with others seeking to replicate Jinko’s product line options, trying to differentiate in markets that are receptive to low-cost alternatives, or focusing only on rooftop markets where volumes are lower and sales/distribution efforts are more intensive.

That a leading industry supplier should be setting trends for others to follow may seem rather obvious, but this is the first time it has happened in the PV industry. In previous growth phases, groups of companies sought to maintain a status-quo approach to technology-change, or put so much effort into being number-one for shipments that fiscal diligence was overlooked and came back to hit cash-flows and ongoing business concerns.

The article explains how the current landscape – in which one company is not only dominating supply volumes, but also driving the technology roadmap of the industry – has come about, what this means for global technology and supply offerings for the next 12-18 months, and what other companies are having to do in order to remain competitive going into 2021.

The data and analysis shown is taken from the most recent (June 2019) release of the PV Manufacturing & Technology Quarterly report. The topics and scope of the discussion is also shown to be integral to the forthcoming PV ModuleTech 2019 event in Penang, Malaysia on 22-23 October 2019.

The article also addresses some of the key issues impacting the industry during 2019, including module bankability, bifacial supply, and issues that are ultimately holding back n-type share-growth in the industry today.

JinkoSolar’s multi-to-mono transition close to being complete

There have always been companies in the PV industry that chose to focus on using only mono wafers (either n-type or p-type), either through cell technology selection (HJT or IBC), or as part of a rooftop-only niche product offering to the market.

In recent years, LONGi Solar moved from being a mono ingot/wafer maker to having multi-GW cell/module capacity, and sought to create a brand image whereby mono-only was the strategy, matched with a long-term expansion roadmap that remains loyal to its mono dedication.

However, until a few years ago, multicrystalline ruled PV, with market-share levels of more than 70% typically, and even higher when filtering out non-rooftop and non-China based deployment. In fact, all the module supply leaders of the past decade (with the exception of First Solar) were multi-advocates, and saw ongoing market-leadership status being sustained by the technology type.

JinkoSolar was the first market-leader that got to number-one status (on the back of being one of the me-too multi panel suppliers), and then moved from supply-leader by volume to technology trendsetter. This is something that companies such as Sharp, Suntech, Trina Solar, Yingli Green did not achieve, in part due to erroneous investment decisions but also because the climate for technology-change was not a recognized concept within the industry then.

Indeed, while each of Sharp, Suntech, Trina and Yingli has various forms of backward integrated capacity (mainly across ingots and wafers), there was certainly no plan to collectively change all stages in order to have a new type of ingot-to-module capacity base feeding through to higher specification module supply. This is one of the things that differentiates JinkoSolar, as will be discussed in more detail below.

First, let’s look at JinkoSolar’s in-house cell technology changes, and compare to the industry as a whole (actual cell production). This is best done by looking at the seven-year period from 2013 to 2019, splitting out technology by c-Si/thin-film, p-type/n-type, and Al-BSF/passivation process flow variants. In the graph below Standard is Al-BSF, and Advanced is PERC.

It should be noted that while there are many other technology variants promoted by different module suppliers (half-cut cells, shingled-arrangements, bifacial, etc.), the basic cell types used for all modules should still be grouped (process-flow mandated) into the three simple segmentations outlined before.

The key issue from Jinko’s perspective was to make the multi-to-mono move as soon as it became clear that mono ingot production was becoming a China-based commoditization, and no longer a capacity-constrained and cost-limited low-throughput offshoot of modified semiconductor pullers using equipment made in Germany or Japan.

As soon as LONGi established its first few gigawatts of made-in-China ingot pulling capacity, the dye was cast. This was made even more evident when Zhonghuan joined in and the two companies here set up multi-GW per-annum mono puller additions, almost irrespective of what was happening in the market, with pricing or non-p-type-mono cell proponent. (It almost seems that, like the country as a whole, both companies had a 5-year plan that was not for changing.)

For every c-Si cell maker, either you could sit back and watch the technology-revolution happen (which most did) and enjoy periods when wafer pricing was attractive, or decide to be a front-runner by making the necessary move to mono.

Those that decided to change cell lines (and by default have more mono module supply options), through moving to mono-PERC and having a route today to being competitive in 2020 with bifacial mono-PERC, have been fully vindicated. However, this alone is not enough, and can be seen still as reactive in nature.

The problem with companies that made multi-to-mono moves (or indeed almost every company that made investments into n-type cell lines in the past few years) is that they are completely beholden to LONGi and Zhonghuan when it comes to wafer supply.

Many still view China-solar majors (especially those making polysilicon/wafers) as being somewhat cartel-like (different corporate entities collectively plotting what the landscape looks like to the benefit of one another): therefore, if you want to be a global module supplier and have control over your full cost structure, you cannot have something as important as wafer supply/cost/quality being outside your direct control.

Today, almost every mono-based module supplier is in this predicament. In fact, things get more complicated when the main mono-wafer supplier is itself a company seeking to be a leading global module supplier. When this set of conditions applies, normally there is not a happy outcome for all parties concerned.

Perhaps more relevant then to being a technology-leader is putting in place a c-Si value-chain (ingot-to-module) that is low-cost, high-efficiency mono-based, and this is what JinkoSolar has done in the past few years, and is the only company to make this move. The graphic below shows metrics supporting these changes for JinkoSolar, with Jinko moving towards 100% in-house mono wafer supply during 2020. As part of having a fully-controlled in-house manufacturing supply-chain, this move is highly significant, and allows Jinko to have control over issues such as wafer quality, size (dimensions), thickness and (most importantly) cost/price.

Other factors to be a leading bankable utility-scale supplier

Until now, within this article, I have not mentioned anything to do with capacity-location (origin-of-manufacture), sales/marketing channels globally, or having the foresight of wisdom to diversify supply allocations to avoid the perils of being locked into a short-term bonanza occurring on your doorstep.

Now let’s explain these, and show that being a supply and technology leader in the PV industry needs to have the above issues in place and working effectively.

Manufacturing capacity location is the single most critical factor for any Chinese module supplier, in terms of being able to deal with any tariff-related issue that is at play today, or may happen in the future. Simply put, having China-only cell/module capacity (ingot/wafer is not relevant) is a fundamental roadblock in terms of being a global module supplier. There are options of course, in terms of supplying to China and other made-in-China open markets, as shown most aptly today through the strategy of Risen Energy. Otherwise, Chinese-based companies are left to be part-producers and part third-party customers of the Southeast Asia OEM engine.

It is no coincidence that Jinko, and JA Solar and Canadian Solar in particular, have been at the forefront of Southeast Asia owned cell/module facilities, with Jinko being the only company to have a specific cell-and-module owned strategy (as opposed to still relying on OEM cell or module supply channels, or focusing mainly on either cell or module capacity overseas).

Sales/marketing acumen is directly related to having a successful diversified module channel outlet that allows strong market-share allocations to be achieved in every key utility-scale region of the PV industry. Historically, this has been one of the hardest challenges for all Asian-based module suppliers, not just Chinese. 

Being brand-recognized globally (especially for non-residential PV deployment) is something that most Japanese and Korean companies (with the exception of Hanwha Q-CELLS) largely failed to achieve, and only a small number of Chinese companies have come close also.

Only Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, JA Solar and JinkoSolar have managed this, with Jinko and Canadian today being the front-runners. Others are left to win business (at least for major utility-scale projects) by aligning with parent-owned project-financing (such as Jetion), putting cash up-front with local JV partners or funding vehicles (such as BYD and GCL-SI for example), or playing in cut-throat markets that most wish to avoid at all costs (such as India).

While every Chinese module company has spoken about wanting to be a global player, and seen as a quality supplier while investing heavily in technology, only four companies have managed this: Jinko, JA Solar, Canadian and Trina. 

However, only Jinko has taken this to a non-Chinese based extreme, by basically setting out a goal a few years ago to get Chinese market shipments to single-digit percentage levels at all costs. China has over 100 module suppliers today that have no option but to sell domestically; this is not a good market to be reliant on while global-stage credibility is the ultimate goal.

Does Jinko now hold to key to n-type as a viable contender?

Following through the rationale that the leading module supplier is the technology trend-setter today, it would therefore make sense that any major changes to module technology type would be driven mainly by this company.

This frames nicely the dilemma within the industry over the past few years, where we have companies with limited market-share, heritage in manufacturing, and global strategies being the ones advocating the not-insignificant move from p-type to n-type as a mainstream contender.

The parallels to the a-Si/uc-Si and CIS/CIGS investments a decade ago are evident, with many of the companies announcing n-type investments (this time largely China based) have little or no in-house expertise, and are relying almost entirely on know-how of equipment suppliers. The China example for n-type is even more precarious when the equipment suppliers of choice are themselves China located.

Similar to a-Si/uc-Si and CIS/CIGS thin-film variants, there is no doubt that n-type cells can be made in mass production and high-volume. The problem though is not one of efficiency potential (as it was in part for a-Si and CIGS), but cost and ease-of-manufacture. Indeed, the question of in-house technology-ownership is now more pronounced than ever before in the PV industry; a fact made clear by Jinko’s move to have in-house control of ingot/wafer and cell technology leadership and not dependent on third-party wafer or cell suppliers.

If n-type is to challenge p-type for non-residential/small-rooftop applications, then a global market-share leader has to prioritize the change; this is not happening today other than marketing-related press releases to convey R&D profiles to the outside world.

It may simply be the case that, if Jinko and others (JA Solar, Canadian, LONGi) choose to ignore n-type, and focus purely on a continued efficiency/cost roadmap for p-type mono PERC bifacial variants, then n-type ends up moving from niche (today) to firmly-on-the-backburner (next 2-3 years).

In contrast to previous thin-film differentiated investments of the past however, n-type cannot be discounted, as it still offers the only route to higher cell efficiencies. But the best technology is not necessarily the market champion (think Betamax and VHS video recorder analogy here).

PV deployment is an LCOE/return-on-investment based proposition, and module costs are now a small part of site capex with other factors (mono-facial versus bifacial) way more important today compared to p-type or n-type module offerings. End-markets are being created on a subsidy-free basis also, without the requirement to make any radical technology-driven change in GW-scale manufacturing plants. GW-scale module suppliers are also trying to navigate still-changing trade-based conditions, while holding gross-margins at acceptable double-digit levels.

Logic would therefore support the continued focus on p-type, and this is what we are seeing today. However, if Jinko (or one or two of the other top-5 module suppliers) were to change plans, things would move very quickly as others rushed to stay competitive. But with scales of manufacturing now at the 10GW-level, the barrier-to-entry from any disruptive offering is way higher than it was in the days when GW-scale was the de-facto measure of global supply leadership.

Anyone needing to know exactly what is really happening in technology today – across the top-100 leading global module suppliers – can access this in PV-Tech’s PV Manufacturing & Technology Quarterly report, though this link.

Ranking bankable module suppliers must have a robust ranking metric system

The evolution of the PV industry in 2018/2019 is also highlighting some other major gaps in bankable module supply for investor-driven projects. These type of projects are now the driving force of PV (utility-solar), but the industry is still using rather misleading metrics to rank module suppliers as credible and reliable.

Many companies are still using Tier-1 lists. However, there are typically 35-40 companies ‘claiming’ to be ‘Tier-1-status’. But, for utility projects globally, there are rarely no more than 10 companies (max.) ever considered as bankable. So something is not quite right here it would seem.

Essentially, the Tier-1 lists use quantitative judgements based on somewhat tentative qualifiers, and often lack any systematic methodology that is explained clearly to the industry as whole. Indeed, some Tier-1 lists show the companies by some sort of manufacturing qualifier, such as Annual Module Capacity, often rounded to the nearest GW or 100MW band. Is this nameplate or effective, in-house used or OEM-assigned? Is this using in-house cells or outsourced? In fact, are the numbers even real?

At the forthcoming PV ModuleTech 2019 event in Penang, on 22-23 October 2019, researchers from PV-Tech will be outlining in a series of talks a new ranking methodology that will finally provide utility solar investors with a robust tracking system, upon which to make risk-free investments when choosing module supplier and technology-type deployed. More on this, on PV-Tech, in the coming months.

PV ModuleTech 2019: the must-attend event for global developers, EPCs and asset owners

During the past few years, PV ModuleTech has become firmly established as the leading global event to understand which module suppliers are going to be dominating the global utility-scale deployment stats over the next couple of years.

Only the leading module suppliers are on-stage outlining product availability, volumes on offer to different global regions, and the module technologies that are optimum for each market and site application. Supporting these talks are the leading module materials and equipment makers, providing key indicators for module assembly enhancements likely to flow into mass production next year and how these improvements will increase module performance, quality and reliability.

The other main company category of speakers comes from the important segment that includes factory auditors, independent engineers, and test/inspection/certification labs. The speakers here are often the ones that satisfy due-diligence needs of investors.

In addition to the request from many of the past attendees for a new and robust module supplier/technology ranking system, the other big request for PV ModuleTech this year is to have more detailed presentations and discussions on bifacial modules. Bifacial modules are not a novelty offering anymore, and there is a strong need now for a fully commercial-oriented discussion platform, as opposed to the research-institute led forums that were important to introduce the basics to the industry as a whole.

There are still many ways to participate in PV ModuleTech 2019</a>; please get in touch with us using the contact information at the link here.

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LONGi investing US$875 million in 2020 production capacity expansion plans

Leading monocrystalline wafer producer and ‘Solar Module Super League’ (SMSL) member LONGi Green Energy Technology is planning to invest around US$875.7 million in expanding its Czochralski-based monocrystalline silicon (mono-Si) ingot and wafer capacity by 15GW, while expanding mono-Si solar cell capacity by an initial 3GW in 2020. 

LONGi said it had signed a strategic agreement with the Yinchuan Economic and Technological Development Zone for the new 15GW ingot and wafer production facility, which is expected to cost around US$643 million. The facility is expected to gradually start ramping production in the second half of 2020. 

The company had recently announced plans to invest approximately US$773 million in expanding mono-Si ingot capacity at two production sites in China, which included 6GW in Baoshan and 6GW in Lijiang. LONGi also announced at the same time a 10GW expansion of mono-Si wafer production as part of a Phase 2 expansion at facilities in Chuxiong.
 
These previously announced expansions would take mono-Si ingot cumulative nameplate capacity to 38GW in 2019. LONGi had previously announced plans to take ingot capacity to 45GW by the end of 2020. 

The new 15GW plans would take mono-Si ingot and wafer nameplate capacity to 53GW after 2020. 

LONGi also announced that its subsidiary, SMSL member LONGi Solar would establish a mono-Si solar cell plant in Yinchuan. Initial capacity would be 3GW at a cost of around US$233 million. The facility would have a nameplate capacity of 5GW. The initial production ramp would be in the first half of 2020.

The company had recently announced a new 1GW mono-Si cell plant would be built in Malaysia at the Shama Jaya Free Industrial Park, Kuching City, Sarawak, Malaysia at a cost of approximately (US$125.5 million). 

Combined with the latest expansions planned in China, LONGi Solar’s mono-Si cell nameplate capacity would reach 10GW by the end of 2020. 

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REC Group launching 380Wp 60-cell module with 600MW capacity and US$150 million investment

Fully integrated PV module manufacturer REC Group is launching a next-generation high-performance module at Intersolar Europe next month, which will have a power rating of 380Wp in a 60-cell format.
 
REC Group said that the new high-performance module was based in a “new revolutionary cell technology and proprietary panel design,” which will be ramped to 600MW of production capacity with a US$150 million investment at its manufacturing facilities in Singapore. 

REC Group CEO Steve O’Neil said, “The new panel will fundamentally change the competitive balance between REC and other Tier 1 players. It will open up a big power gap beyond what is commercially available today.”

Currently, REC’s flagship high-performance module is the N-Peak series, reaching 330Wp, the 60-cell module was the world’s first to combine mono n-type half-cut cells with a twin-panel design.

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Amtech exiting solar sector on expected divestiture of subsidiaries

PV equipment and technology specialist, Amtech Systems is to sell its solar manufacturing equipment subsidiaries that included Tempress and SoLayTec to focus its semiconductor sector business.

The company had previously undertaken a review of its solar business late in 2018, which included the departure of Amtech’s CEO, Fokko Pentinga, after 24 years of service. The company has noted the impact from the China 531 New Deal at the end of May, 2018, which led to a slowdown in a number of Chinese PV manufacturers continuing with previously announced capacity expansions plans. Later, Amtech noted that a major order from a Chinese customer had been cancelled.

Profitability had been an issue in its solar segment in recent years, while its order backlog declined. The company had previously reported a net loss of US$7.1 million within its solar business in FY2018, after a net profit of US$6.1 million in FY2017.

In a first quarter 2019 presentation, Amtech noted that it had little visibility in the future business of its solar segment as well as strong competition from Chinese equipment manufacturers with “good enough” equipment, while “superior technology not enough to win in [the] current CAPEX constrained market environment.”

In a financial statement, Amtech noted that it had adopted a plan to sell its solar operations on or before March 31, 2020. However, it was unable to assess at this time the costs associated with the planned sale. 

Amtech’s J.S. Whang, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, commented on the planned sale, “In November 2018 we announced that we had initiated a comprehensive review of our solar businesses.  In a February update we noted thus far our review strongly indicates that our combined Semi and SiC/LED polishing business provide better markets for enhancing the value of Amtech Group. We have recently completed our assessment and conclude, along with Tempress and SoLayTec management, that significant investment is required to effectively compete in the changing solar industry. We therefore conclude Tempress and SoLayTec would be better positioned to capitalize on opportunities in the solar industry under new ownership.”

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Imec and Jolywood R&D collaboration on bifacial n-PERT solar cells hits a record 23.2% efficiency

An ongoing R&D collaboration between Imec and Jolywood (Taizhou) Solar Technology Co, the PV module manufacturing arm of major PV backsheet manufacturer Jolywood (Suzhou) Sunwatt Co, have reported an n-PERT (Passivated Emitter and Rear Totally diffused) bifacial solar cell with a conversion efficiency of 23.2%, a new record. 

Imec announced the results at SiliconPV 2019, which were measured by ISFH Caltec, with a clear path to achieve conversion efficiencies above 24%.

Jia Chen, R&D director at Jolywood: “Jolywood targets to bring the best solar solution to the market. Devoted to R&D and manufacturing of the world’s best n-type cells and modules, we believe n-type technology can contribute to the industry with high performance, high reliability and low LCOE. We have chosen imec to help us reach that target because of their unique expertise and research infrastructure. We are also developing bifacial n-PERT cells with passivating contact technology, and have already achieved efficiencies above 23%. Combining all the technology know-how, we are confident that our bifacial n-type solar cells will achieve an efficiency above 24% very soon.”

The latest record was set from a batch of 12 new M2-sized cells (244.3 cm²) measured at ISFH CalTec that showed an average conversion efficiency of 23.0%, with the best cell topping 23.2%. Imec said measurements revealed a bifaciality factor above 80%. 

Measurements taken under standard front illumination conditions in conjunction with an additional 0.15 sun rear illumination, led to effective a conversion efficiency of almost 26%, according to imec. 
ISFH Caltec also measured an average reverse current of -0.4A (at -12V) indicating improvements to the breakdown characteristics of the cells.

Loic Tous, project leader at imec/EnergyVille added, “Compared to the previous results imec reported, we have further optimized the fully screenprinted bifacial n-PERT cell process and adopted a design with twelve busbars. The current cells also have a screenprinted front grid and rear soldering pads that use less silver. The open circuit voltage (Voc) is now above 690mV with fill factors up to 83%. These remarkable results are obtained using the same industry-compatible equipment to produce bifacial p-PERC cells, with the addition of a boron diffusion.”

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Meyer Burger receives US$15 million PERC tool order representing new wave of cell expansion plans

Leading PV equipment supplier Meyer Burger has received a CHF 15 million repeat order for its ‘MAiA’ 6.1 PECVD tool for PERC passivation processes from a leading Asian customer, according to the company.

Meyer Burger said that MAiA 6.1 cell coating platform order was a signal of a new wave of high-efficiency PERC cell capacity expansions.

Dr Hans Brändle, CEO of Meyer Burger, stated: “Today’s announcement of a repeat order from a leading PV module manufacturer for our next generation MAiA® 6.1 signals the beginning of ambitious new PERC expansion plans by the solar industry.”

MAiA 6.1 cell coating platform is said to have a throughput of over 6,000 wafers per hour for mass production scalable PERC technology.

Meyer Burger’s CTO, Dr Gunter Erfurt added, “Meyer Burger’s proprietary passivation technology for PERC solar cells is based on our own IP which is patented in the EU as well as in China and Korea. The patents describe and claim the deposition method, the tool configuration, the process sequence as well as the resulting passivation structure on the solar cell. Thus, PERC solar cells processed on our leading MAiA platform apply a significantly different passivation structure compared to the structure e.g. applied using atomic layer deposition (ALD) and are not in the scope of the recently filed patent infringement claim by a leading PV company against other solar manufacturers.”

Dr Erfurt was referencing the recent patent infringement cases issued by Hanwha Q CELLS against JinkoSolar, LONGi Solar and REC Group in respect to its [215] patent that was issued in the US in February, 2018. The patent  includes a specific passivation layer structure that is comprised of a first layer including aluminum oxide deposited by ALD that is below 50nm in thickness with a second and thicker dielectric layer imbedded with hydrogen that forms a specific layer structure that is typical in PERC solar cells as well as cell derivatives. 

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Jinergy touts heterojunction module breaking 450W at PV CellTech conference

In a presentation at the PV CellTech conference being held in Penang, Malaysia, this week, Dr. Liyou Yang, general manager of Jinneng Clean Energy Technology Ltd (Jinergy), highlighted its heterojunction (HJT) cell-based JNHM72 (72-cell) champion module had reached 452.5W power output.

According to Dr. Yang, currently, Jinergy’s HJT cell average mass production efficiency has reached 23.79%, and the efficiency of new experimental cells has reached 24.73%.

Dr. Yang said in a statement: “Confronting energy restructuring and FiT reduction, bifacial ultra-high HJT technology is the ideal solution to further reduce LCOE, the widely used standard to evaluate investment of PV power stations. Being newly added to the BNEF Tier 1 solar module manufacturer list, Jinergy will continue to invest in R&D for cutting-edge technologies and contribute to the global renewable energy market with the most advanced and reliable products.”
 
Jinergy is one of the first PV manufacturers to commercialize HJT modules in China. Jinergy’s HJT module received the first new IEC certificate in the world and was listed in DEWA and JPAC, according to the company.

Recently, SunPower Corporation launched its first module using its NGT (Next Generation Technology) IBC (Interdigitated Back Contact) ‘Maxeon Gen 5’ cells.

The A-Series module is expected to come in power ranges of 400Wp and 415Wp and billed as “world’s first 400-watt residential solar panels.”

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