Category: News

Imec sees nPERT solar cell roadmap surpassing 24% conversion efficiencies

European research and innovation hub centre imec has detailed a path for its nPERT (n-type Passivated Emitter and Rear Totally diffused) solar cell technology to reach conversion efficiencies in excess of 24% for volume production applications.
 
During last week’s EU PVSEC conference that was held in Brussels, Belgium, imec announced that its latest generation of large-area monofacial screen-printed rear-emitter nPERT cells achieved a conversion efficiency of 23.03%, which had been certified by Fraunhofer ISE CalLab.

“Until now, nPERT solar technology has not yet found the traction it deserves in the industry,” noted Loic Tous, senior researcher at imec. “With these ever-improving results, which we achieved by applying knowledge gained from our bifacial nPERT project, we are now demonstrating the potential of nPERT technology. The advantages in stability and efficiency potential over p-type PERC cells, while using the same equipment with the addition of a Boron diffusion, make this a very promising technology for future manufacturing lines.”

According to imec, its nPERT technology is projected to reach 23.5% efficiency by the end of this year, with a clear technology roadmap to eventually surpass 24%.

N-type PERT technology could become a cost-effective contender to P-type PERC, which is being ramped extensively as the next-gen mainstream technology ahead of an expected shift to heterojunction technologies (HJT) in the next five years. 

However, nPERT technology could compete in the 24%-plus efficiency space that HJT technology is expected to become mainstream as it retains key printing and other equipment from the PERC migration. 

According to imec, nPERT technology has a number of inherent advantages over P-type PERC cell technology, notably the absence of light induced degradation (LID) and are less sensitive to metal impurities that limit cell efficiencies. 
 
Imec has fabricated the M2-sized cells (area: 244.3 cm²) on its pilot line with industry-compatible tools and recipes in a process that is an upgrade of the pPERC fabrication process. This includes using a similar layout of an n+ region (Front Surface Field) on the illuminated side and a p+ region (as rear emitter) on the opposite side and adding a cost-effective boron diffusion.

Key to nPERT technology adoption will also be its cost effectiveness against HJT technologies capable of 24%-plus conversion efficiencies. 

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Daqo to exit wafer production as impact from China solar caps and mono-wafer transition

China-based polysilicon and multicrystalline wafer producer Daqo New Energy has said it would discontinue its solar wafer manufacturing operations in September, 2018.

PV Tech previously reported that Daqo’s wafer sales volume had been 70% down year-on-year as the caps on utility-scale and Distributed Generation (DG) solar projects in China at the end of May start impacting quarterly business results. 

Also recently highlighted by PV Tech’s head of market research, Finlay Colville was the faster than expected transition away from multicrystalline wafer usage to monocrystalline, driven by recent Chinese Government changes to its support for solar. 

Daqo’s multicrystalline wafer sales volume had been slashed by as much as 50% for the second quarter of 2018, due to the impact on the China caps.

Daqo had revised its wafer sales volume guidance to approximately 9.5 million to 10.0 million pieces, down from previous guidance of 15.0 million to 20.0 million pieces. In releasing second quarter financial results, wafer sales volume was reported to be 9.8 million pieces, near the high-end of revised guidance.

However, Daqo guided third quarter 2018 multicrystalline wafers sales volume to only reach between 7 million pieces to 8 million pieces, a 70% decline, year-on-year. 

In a short period of time, Daqo has decided instead, to exit the multi c-Si wafer business that is expected to be in overcapacity and experience strong ASP declines going forward. 

Daqo said that it expected to incur approximately US$21.6 million in fixed-asset impairment and restructuring charges in the third quarter of 2018, including approximately US$1.6 million in employee severance payments and approximately US$20.0 million in impairment of long-lived assets.

Longgen Zhang, CEO of Daqo New Energy, commented, “We made a strategic decision to discontinue our solar wafer manufacturing operations to accommodate the increasingly challenging market conditions for multi-crystalline wafers. We expect to complete the shutdown of the solar wafer business in the third quarter of 2018. This move will allow us to focus all of our resources and expertise on our core polysilicon manufacturing business and Phase 3B expansion project which will begin pilot production in the fourth quarter of 2018.”  
  
However, the high-purity polysilicon market is also expected to be impacted by the caps on solar growth in China and the reduction in the required metric tonnes of polysilicon required as the industry moves to monocrystalline wafers.

In his most recent blog on PV Tech, Colville noted that during recent updates to the “PV Manufacturing & Technology Quarterly” report, the polysilicon model, looking out to 2022, polysilicon consumption is set for a rapid decline to end below 3g/W, from around 4g/W today.

Major polysilicon capacity expansions in excess of 150,000MT have been underway from many major producers in China and Asia, including Daqo, Tongwei, GCL-Poly, Xinte Energy, Zhonghuan Semiconductor and OCI, amongst others. 

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LONGi sets new quarterly shipments, sales and R&D spending records

LONGi Green Energy Technology, the world’s largest dedicated manufacturer of monocrystalline wafers and its subsidiary, LONGi Solar, a member of the ‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) has reported first half year results that included record quarterly shipments, operating income and R&D spending. 

LONGi Group reported first half 2018 operating income of approximately RMB 10.02 billion (US$1.49 billion approx.), compared to US$995.2 million approx.), in the prior year period, an increase of 59.36%.

On a quarterly basis, LONGi reported second quarter operating income of US$956.1 million, compared to approximately US$569.1 million in second quarter of 2017, a 68% increase year-on-year. 

The second quarter income exceeded LONGi’s previous quarterly record set in the fourth quarter of 2017, when the company reported an operating income of approximately US$874.8 million.

Although the company mirrored many competitors in reporting relatively soft first quarter results, sue to seasonality in key markets, including China, LONGi’s significant increase in shipments of mono wafers and mono PV modules were behind the operating income growth. 

The company reported first half year 2018 mono c-Si wafer production of 1.544 billion pieces, with 758 million pieces old externally and 786 million pieces were used in-house, compared to the first half of 2017 when external sales volume was 449 million pieces, and in-house consumption was 419 million pieces

In the first half of 2018, PV module shipments reached 3,232MW, including sales of 2,637MW and 375MW of modules use for its downstream PV project business, which included a number of poverty alleviation projects in China. 

However, the major change in module shipments came from international sales, which accounted for 687MW in the first half of 2018, 18 times higher than the prior year period.

Less spectacular than the operating income growth was the net profit in the first half of 2018, which reached RMB 1.307 billion (US$190.98 million approx.), a year-on-year increase of 5.73%. The company reported a gross profit margin of 22.62%. However, LONGi remains one of the most profitable PV manufacturers. 

The squeeze on profit and margins were mainly attributable to average selling price (ASP) declines, initiated by trade tariffs and the late impact of the Chinese Governments ‘531 New Deal’.

PV Tech had previously reported that LONGi surpassed long-term R&D spending leaders First Solar and Sunpower for the first time in 2017, having allocated over US$175 million to a range of R&D activities at the ingot/wafer level through to cell and modules, which set a new R&D spending record. 

In the first half of 2018, LONGi reported R&D spending in the reporting period to have reached approximately US$105 million, a year-on-year increase of 61.80% and accounting for 7.18% of operating income in the reporting period, a new industry record. 

To put this in perspective, First Solar’s 2017 annual R&D spending totalled US$88.6 million and Sunpower spent US$80.7 million. 

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Tongwei to start heterojunction pilot production with migration to Industry 4.0 manufacturing

China-based integrated polysilicon and merchant cell manufacturer Tongwei Group expects to begin pilot production of heterojunction (HJ) solar cells by the end of 2018, while the success of its 200MW Industry 4.0 fully-automated solar cell production line will lead to a longer-term migration of all cell production to intelligent manufacturing. 

Tongwei said that ongoing R&D activities as part of an advanced collaboration effort on next-generation HJ soar cells would lead to pilot volume production evaluations by the end of 2018. 

The company said that many PV manufacturers considered HJ cell technology to be the most promising next-generation high-efficiency cell.

HJ cell production requires higher cleanroom contamination requirements and automated handling and processing, in-line with Industry 4.0 objectives. Contamination of a HJ cell before the deposition of the a-Si layer, degrades the conversion efficiency of the cell.
 
The company has been ramping R&D spending for several years and spent almost US$55million on solar (polysilicon, cell and module) related R&D in 2017. Group R&D spending in 2017 was over US$80 million.

Tongwei also noted that during the first half of 2018, independent tests by Chengdu National Photovoltaic Product Quality Supervision and Inspection Center on PV modules (72-cell) using its passivated emitter rear cells had maximum power of 421.9Wp and a conversion efficiency of 20.7%. 

N-type mono HJ cells were tested in modules (glass/glass) reaching maximum power of 442Wp, with conversion efficiencies reaching 21.7%. Potentially new records.

Industry 4.0 manufacturing update

Tongwei has been at the forefront of fully-automated manufacturing of solar cells with its 200MW Industry 4.0 intelligent production line, which became operational in September, 2017 at its new 2GW Chengdu cell plant. 

Tongwei said that with current data analysis, the line had operated in a stable condition, while improving cell product quality and overall productivity, compared to non-fully automated lines.

The company indicated that overall in-house cell production in the first half of 2018 was as much as 60% better that the Chinese industry benchmark average when conversion efficiency, yield, and CTM (Cell to Module) criteria were used, leading to the company claiming it was at the leading level within the industry.

The operating stability of the line, coupled to the ability to reduce production costs that were said to be in the range of 0.2-0.3 yuan/W (US$ 0.029/W) were significantly below benchmarked Chinese cell producers cost of above 0.45 yuan/W, according to data released in January, 2018 from the China Photovoltaic Association.

As a result, Tongwei said it would extend the Industry 4.0 model to existing and new capacity, as it also steps to further consolidate its competitive advantage. The company did not say what the time lines for the migration would be.

Tongwei has become a leading cell supplier to key China-based ‘Silicon Module Super League (SMSL) members such as JinkoSolar Trina Solar, Canadian Solar and LONGi Solar. 

Manufacturing capacity update

Tongwei also noted that its planned expansion of P-type monocrystalline PERC (Passivated Emitter Rear Cell) production would start ramping by the end of 2018 as the company operated at 100% utilisation rates in the first half of 2018. 

Tongwei’s total solar cell production capacity was 5.4GW in the first half of the year, which included 2.4GW of P-type multicrystalline cell capacity at its Hefei plant and 3GW of P-type monocrystalline PERC cell capacity at its facility in Chengdu. Production continued to be fully utilized in the first half of the year.
 
The 3.2GW of new high-efficiency mono cell capacity at a new facility in Hefei is nearing completion and is expected to start production by end of 2018. The same is expected of a 3.2GW expansion at its new facilities in Chengdu. 

A total of 5.5GW of new mono solar cell capacity is expected to start ramping before the end of the year, bring nameplate cell capacity to around 10.9GW, consolidating Tongwei’s rapid accession to becoming the largest solar cell producer in the world. 

Tongwei’s polysilicon production capacity remained static at 20,000MT in the first half of the year but two 25,000MT plants with a combined capacity of 50,000MT per annum are also expected to be completed and put into production within 2018. 

By the end of 2018, Tongwei will become one of the largest polysilicon producers in the world. 

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JinkoSolar claims immunity from industry woes as 2018 shipment guidance remains unchanged

Leading ‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member JinkoSolar has reported higher than guided second quarter PV module shipments and reiterated total shipments guidance to be in the range of 11.5GW to 12GW in 2018. 

The SMSL reported total PV module shipments of 2,794MW, up from 2,015MW in the previous quarter and the second highest quarterly record, which was set (2,884MW) in the prior year quarter. The company had previously guided shipments for the second quarter of 2018 to be in the range of 2.4GW to 2.5GW.

Kangping Chen, JinkoSolar’s Chief Executive Officer commented, “We delivered a strong quarter with module shipments hitting 2,794 MW while generating total revenue of US$915.9 million. Leveraging our cutting-edge technologies, strong global sales network, and industry leading cost structure, I’m confident in our ability to generate sustainable profits and growth going forward.”

“Growth during the quarter was strong and we expect this momentum to continue into the second half of the year despite the impact from the new policies issued by the Chinese government on May 31 as shipments to overseas markets are expected to continue growing and account for an increasing proportion of our shipments. We believe these new policies will have a relatively limited impact on our operations over the short-term and are optimistic about our future prospects. We expect demand from Top Runner Program, poverty alleviation projects, local government subsidies, and self-contained DG projects to continue to drive the growth in the Chinese market, especially in regions with ample sunlight and high commercial power prices.”

“We already have good visibility of our order book for the entire year which is predominantly made up of overseas orders to markets which are growing rapidly and will generate significant opportunities ahead. We are taking full advantage of our market leading position and production facility in Florida to expand our presence in the US market. Demand in emerging markets continues to grow, especially in Latin American and the Middle East and North Africa. We are devoting our resources there towards securing large long-term orders through our mature sales network which spans a number of markets there. We believe the Indian solar sector will maintain its long-term growth trajectory despite the short-term impact of recently announced tariffs and will continue to explore opportunities there.”

JinkoSolar reported a lower gross margin of 12.0%, compared with 14.4% in the first quarter of 2018. This was due to Average Selling Price (ASP) declines.

Total revenue in the quarter was US$915.9 million, an increase of 32.7% from the first quarter of 2018.

Gross profit in the second quarter of 2018 was US$110.0 million, compared with US$104.6 million in the first quarter of 2018. Income from operations was US$14.3 million, compared with US$19.9 million in the first quarter of 2018.

Manufacturing update

JinkoSolar said that its nameplate capacities remain unchanged quarter-on-quarter. As of June 30, 2018, the SMSL’s in-house annual silicon wafer capacity remained at 9GW, while solar cell capacity remained at 5GW and solar module production capacity also remained at 9GW.

The company had previously guided wafer capacity would reach 9.7GW in 2018, along with 6GW of cell capacity and 10.5GW of module assembly capacity.

“We continued to develop high-efficiency technologies while optimizing the cost structure of our products,” added Chen. “We made significant progress in improving wafer efficiency and reducing both oxygen content and light induced degradation. We are increasing our mono PREC cell capacity which will reach 4.2GW by the end of year. We are also investing in N type technology, especially HOT double sided cell technology. The falling cost of raw materials and our deep experience in rapidly rolling out new technologies will allow us to further optimize our cost structure going forward and help us increase market share by providing clients with high-efficiency products at cost effective prices.”

Guidance

JinkoSolar expects total solar module shipments in the third quarter of 2018 to be in the range of 2.8GW to 3.0GW, which could be a new company and industry quarterly shipment record.

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N-type solar cell production to exceed 5GW in 2018 with 135% growth since 2013

As the solar industry has grown from a 50GW market to 100GW in just a few years, the desire to have differentiated production has increased, especially for companies entering the market or repositioning strategies.

Having a product offering that is either higher efficiency or lower cost is always a good way to extract funds to build new manufacturing capacity, and the solar industry has seen plenty of efforts in this regard.

Sadly, most attempts to do this in the past have failed, characterized by the equipment-supply-chain driven turn-key a:Si phase and the days when new entrants were arriving in the industry like there was no tomorrow, and many venture capitalists were left to count the losses.

During the past 2-3 years, the focus has returned to n-type cell variants, and this has been accompanied by no shortage of marketing fervour and aspirational claims. However, when we unpick the facts from the fiction, and track the reality of production, we can see definite upward trends that will surely sustain excitement and investment levels going forward.

For the first time, this article reveals exactly how much n-type production is coming from this segment of the PV industry, further categorizing this into the three sub-categories of n-type technology: back-contact, heterojunction, and all-others.

The underlying data comes from analysis compiled by our in-house research team at PV-Tech, and is available within our PV Manufacturing & Technology Quarterly report releases.

What this all means for n-type module availability – and related panel performance, quality, reliability and company/technology due-diligence for utility-scale solar – forms part of our pending PV ModuleTech 2018 conference in Penang, Malaysia, on 23-24 October 2018.

Why n-type?

For users of solar panels, talking about minority carrier lifetimes or surface recombination velocities – or indeed anything that sounds more like physics than return-on-investment – is largely misplaced.

Of course it is important to understand the physics, especially if you are pushing the boundaries in terms of advanced cell processing, but when it comes down to developers and EPCs, the arguments for n-type can be summed up better as follows.

n-type solar cell substrates are intrinsically higher performing. Cell efficiencies are well above the industry-standard of recent years (p-type multi), and as a result, panel powers (like for like panel sizes, at STC) offer gains of many tens of Watts. This clearly offers space-related benefits which translate positively to any LCOE calculation based on reduced system capex/BoS-costs.

Additionally, n-type offers vastly superior elevated temperature performance, compared to all p-type options (both mono and multi). Here n-type shares temperature-dependent power coefficients with thin-film panels, such as First Solar’s. Considering especially that utility-scale solar plants (and indeed almost any solar panels under direct sunlight) generally perform at temperatures well above STC conditions, there is an argument for every comparison of solar panels to be done at 70 degrees.

n-type substrates are also less prone to various degradation mechanisms, which – given manufacturing quality, testing and repeatability – translates directly into reliability and lifetime performance (return-on-investment).

The above issues are not new by any means. However, it is interesting to see many of the new n-type entrants in the past few years trying to explain these clearly, while at the same time seeking to ramp new production lines and understand simply how to get production lines to targeted efficiencies, yields and distribution goals.

Until now, the only issues holding back n-type being the mainstream choice in the solar industry have been production levels (trending in the 5% of annual demand ballpark) and manufacturing costs (including wafer availability). As such, this explains why everyone in the solar industry needs to keep a close eye on n-type companies, investments and expansion plans, and is fundamentally behind the long-term view held by many that n-type market-share gains will only increase year-by-year for quite some time.

Why can’t n-type benefit from economy-of-scale seen by p-type?

Currently, the PV industry is basking in the glory of having moved p-type multi solar cells from 3 to 5 busbars, in adding a passivation layer to the rear side of p-type mono cells (the PERC cell), and in driving down production costs to allow selling a module at 35c/W with small (positive) gross margins.

However, the p-type community – though a combination of the above and other less-publicized issues – has collectively taken p-type cell efficiencies from 15-18% to 18-21% over a five-year period, representing a phase in the industry that is one of the most productive and helpful to developers and EPCs.

At this point, one should point out that previous estimates (mainly from the research community or early adopters) of where p-type performance could max-out in mass production have largely been exceeded. Indeed, at our PV CellTech 2018 meeting back in March, leading multi-GW p-type cell manufacturers were each showing roadmaps to take p-type mono average cell efficiencies to 22-23% within the next couple of years.

I recall at PV CellTech asking none other than Prof. Martin Green of UNSW what had surprised him most about the current cell performance levels seen in a 100-GW-scale PV industry, and one of the replies was based around the fact that nobody had imagined the performance gains that could be attributed from mass-production learning.

Therefore, the obvious question to ask is: what is possible from n-type production, if it was to scale to 10GW or 100GW? Currently, performance levels of n-type (especially IBC and HJT) are industry-leading, but how much more is out there compared to the GW-max seen at any one producer today? Of course, should IBC/HJT (or hybrid variants thereof) move to this level of production, then by default the industry will have addressed the supply and cost challenges that exist today.

So, one should perhaps not look too closely at the decreasing delta between p-type mono PERC (at the 30GW+ production level, and with a cost structure heavily blended with p-type multi output) and n-type cells, as the comparison is not on a level playing field. The question should be: how do these cell concepts compare when each has tens of GW production across 5-10 key producers?

In the meantime, let’s return now to n-type growth within the industry today.

From 2GW to 5GW annual production in five years

Until a few years ago, the PV industry had just a few companies making n-type solar panels, with efforts spread across three ‘different’ approaches: back-contacted solar cells (or interdigitated back contact, IBC), front-contacted with doped/intrinsic thin a-Si (passivation) layers (heterojunction), and n-type designs that are more analogous to regular p-type solar cell processing but have rear passivation/diffusion.

SunPower is well-known for being the proponent of IBC cells, benchmarking premium performance levels across all n-type (and everything else) on the market. IBC processed cells remain market-leading today by some margin.

Panasonic inherited Sanyo’s heterojunction facilities in Japan and Malaysia, and for some time was the only company offering this technology. As I will discuss below in the article, other companies have now entered this segment of n-type solar manufacturing. 

Heterojunction (or HJT) performance has slightly lower performance levels, compared to IBC, but offers higher powers than other n-type variants. The strengths of HJT can also be blended back-contacting of course, but as yet this is R&D only, and not close to mass production.

The ‘other n-type’ grouping has seen some pilot-line activity in the past, but saw its first real efforts to move into mass production about 10 years ago, when Yingli Green Energy ramped up several production lines through a technology-transfer with European research institute ECN (the ‘Panda’ offering from Yingli). During the past few years however, this technology class has seen the greatest level of competition, in particular arising from the success of LG Electronics in South Korea, and subsequently spreading across several new companies located in China.

The net result of the new capital investments has seen the number of (meaningful) n-type cell producers grow to approximately 20, with many others engaged at the R&D level also, or working with research institutes on collaborative projects. Consequently, global cell production of n-type has grown from the 2GW-level in 2013 to what is projected to be more than 5GW this year. This is shown in the figure below:

LG Electronics became leading n-type producer by MW in 2017

Almost under the radar, and without any great fanfare, LG Electronics likely moved into the leading position in the PV industry sometime during 2017, producing more n-type capacity than any other company. Much of this has arisen from the company’s aggressive capacity expansions in South Korea during the past couple of years, stimulated by the US market in a pre-Section-201 world.

When looking more closely at LG Electronics’s specific process flow for its n-type cells, one can see some other trends that are characterizing the n-type segment as a whole, many of which have not found compatibility with mainstream p-type cell production.

Currently, with the exception of a few Chinese new-entrants, all n-type producers have some form of differentiation, ranging from the likes of SunPower (whose lines are entirely in-house IP-owned) to LG Electronics (multi-wires and ion implanting) to others that may have bifaciality as standard or (like SunPower) have worked out how to use wafers below 120 microns thick. This segment is also the first to use thin wafers and have copper (not silver) for electrical collection.

n-type benefits from European/Western equipment suppliers

A large part of the growth success of n-type production in the past few years can be tracked directly to the involvement of equipment suppliers, with many of the leading European companies having process knowledge exceeding the customer base they are serving: Meyer Burger, INDEOtec, SCHMID, Von Ardenne, Singulus, Tempress/Amtech. Japanese know-how – courtesy of legacy engagement with Sanyo in Japan – has somewhat permeated out of companies such as ULVAC and Sumitomo Heavy Industries and exists in various forms through affiliated or licenced partnering companies in Asia today. Companies previously selling PCV/PECVD tools for a:Si deposition (ULVAC, Applied Materials, Jusung) are obviously placed to have an impact also.

Walking around many of the new n-type lines in operation today across Asia and Europe will likely feature equipment from many of the above companies. The n-type segment (in particular for HJT and all-others including n-PERT/bifacial variants) is yet to consolidate around a standardized process flow however, and is still one that Chinese tool suppliers believe they can address should multi-GW be added from 2019 onwards during the next phase of n-type expansions.

Removing wafer availability concerns

Previously, n-type production was seen to have certain limitations, in particular from being reliant on mono ingot pulling which until recent years had been relatively niche. Indeed, had it not been for LONGi and Zhonghuan, it could be argued that this same limitation would apply, with 5-inch wafers for n-type cell production being in short-supply and priced 15-20% above regular wafer offerings from the likes of GCL-Poly.

However, all this changed with the expansions from LONGi and Zhonghuan making mono pulling a 10-20GW company-operations, and taking production costs to levels that previous wafer suppliers in Asia could never have reached (for any mono wafers, not just for n-type cell production).

Almost overnight, mono wafer supply has become commoditized, and one could almost argue today that wafer-supply to n-type is a net-positive, not a stumbling block. Currently, wafer supply for n-type producers is mainly available on-demand, with a decision on number of pullers using boron or phosphorous dopants. The supply of wafers for n-type cell production is not likely to go into over-supply in the near future, but given the hunger for leading Chinese mono wafer suppliers to dominate the market, one can conclude also that should a few additional GW of n-type be produced even in 2019, the supply-chain will meet this demand from China.

Heterojunction still the front-runner for most new entrants

While the graphic above may not suggest it, HJT is where the focus is today for much of the new investments into n-type across China, Taiwan and Europe/Russia. Many of these companies are ramping new lines now, and success here will show more clearly in production data going forward, and less so when looking at the 2013-2018 window.

The drivers are varied. For many of the Chinese companies, having a panel with ‘Panasonic-type’ quality/performance is clearly something many would love to have today, and there remains a belief that if they can match cell efficiencies in mass production, then they can address the Achilles-heel for Panasonic and Sanyo in the past: production cost.

For others, the move to HJT may be as simple as needing to repurpose legacy a-Si investments (e.g. Hevel Solar, 3Sun/Enel) and seeing HJT as the natural c-Si based path.

With the strong R&D being undertaken by tool suppliers such as Meyer Burger and INDEOtec, the prospects for HJT moving to multi-GW scale with a competitive cost structure are good.

PV ModuleTech and PV CellTech remain the go-to check-points for n-type

For the past few years at PV CellTech, we have focused on the plans for new cell production for n-type capacity, as especially HJT variants. This has proved invaluable in providing a glimpse at what may come through in mass production 2-3 years out, at which point most of the downstream community have real choices to make based on new module suppliers and technologies.

While this captures much of the reasoning behind the PV CellTech event, PV ModuleTech looks at how this impacts on module supply today, in terms of company strengths, product quality, and bankability. As such, this year’s PV ModuleTech 2018 event in Penang (23-24 October 2018) will be a great place for global developers and EPCs to understand exactly what the supply of n-type modules will look like in 2018.

For many, it will be simply keeping track of a module technology that could impact on their solar strategies from 2020 onwards. For others, it offers immediate benefits, assuming selection of module supplier and technologies meet necessary due-diligence and bankability requirements.

For more details on how to attend PV ModuleTech 2018, please follow this link.

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Risen Energy starts construction of 5GW solar module manufacturing base in China

Major China-based PV module manufacturer Risen Energy, which entered PV Tech’s Top 10 module manufacturer’s rankings for the first time in 2017, has recently held a ground-breaking ceremony for its planned 5GW solar module manufacturing base in the Yiwu Information Optoelectronics High-tech Industrial Park, Zhejiang, China.

The new manufacturing base, which is expected to be dedicated to high-efficiency and next-generation monocrystalline solar cell technology.

The initial production capacity in the Phase 1 expansion was said to be 2GW and be operational in the next three years. Volume production will be highly flexible, enabling P-type mono PERC (Passivated Emitter Rear Cell) production as well as Bifacial cell production and half-cut cells for 5BB/6BB high efficiency single and double glass modules.

Risen had previously announced that total capital expenditures for the new production facility, as well as R&D activities would be approximately RMB 8.0 billion (US$1.23 billion).

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Intersolar 2018: Canadian Solar launching multicrystalline bifacial modules for utility-scale market

‘Silicon Module Super League’ (SMSL) member, Canadian Solar is set to launch a new range of high-performance multicrystalline modules at Intersolar Europe, designed to capture attention in the utility-scale market.

The SMSL plans to showcase its ‘BiKu’ module series, using multicrystalline bifacial cells in contrast to mass adoption of monocrystalline PERC (Passivated Emitter Rear Cell) technology and bifacial versions by the majority of major PV manufacturers.

At the 2018 PV CellTech conference in Malaysia, Canadian Solar’s CTO, Dr. Guoqiang Xing, highlighted the company’s commitment to high-efficiency multicrystalline technology and its claimed ability to keep pace with monocrystalline technology developments.

Canadian Solar said that its bifacial modules have up to 365W power output on the front side and 75% bifaciality, which is claimed to increase energy yield by up to 30% with backside contributions under certain albedo conditions, thus lowering LCOE. 

The new HiKu multi c-Si module series was said to have been developed specially for utility-scale market with power output exceeding 400W. This product was said to have latest high efficiency cell technology, coupled with Canadian Solar’sKu module technology. 

Also being showcased is Canadian Solar’s HiDM (High-Density Module), deploying proprietary shingle-type cells, boosting module power density with module efficiency reaching up to 20.2%. The power output of a 60-cell mono HiDM module was said to be 335W, about 10% higher than a standard full cell mono PERC module. 
 
HiDM modules were also claimed to have appealing aesthetics and good shading tolerance, making them attractive for residential rooftop systems where the space is limited and where shadowing is possible. 

The European market has not been one of Canadian Solar’s key markets since the German market boom. Key markets in recent years have been China, US, Japan and India.

The company has manufacturing operations and partnerhsips in Brazil, Canada, China, Indonesia, South East Asia and Vietnam. 

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EPFL and CSEM use evaporation process to boost mono c-Si tandem perovskite cell to record efficiency

Researchers at EPFL’s Photovoltaics Laboratory and the CSEM PV-center have reported a record tandem junction solar cell with conversion efficiencies of 25.2%, using a standard monocrystalline cell and an evaporation and spin-on process to fully coat the structure. 

EPFL and CSEM claim the simple manufacturing technique could be directly integrated into existing production lines, and the cell conversion efficiency could eventually rise above 30%, according to new modelling.

In tandem cells, perovskite complements silicon cells as it converts blue and green light more efficiently, while silicon based cells are better at converting red and infra-red light. 

“By combining the two materials, we can maximize the use of the solar spectrum and increase the amount of power generated. The calculations and work we have done show that a 30% efficiency should soon be possible,” say the study’s main authors Florent Sahli and Jérémie Werner, which was published in the technical journal, Nature. 

“Silicon’s surface consists of a series of pyramids measuring around 5 microns, which trap light and prevent it from being reflected. However, the surface texture makes it hard to deposit a homogeneous film of perovskite,” explains Quentin Jeangros, who co-authored the paper.

Typically, perovskite materials on their own have been deposited on small test glass plates in a liquid form, then spin coated for uniformity. However, when deposited on a conventional cell, which has a textured surface the material accumulates in the valleys between the pyramids while leaving the peaks uncovered, which lowers efficiency and creates short circuits, according to the new study.

Using an evaporation method to form an inorganic porous base layer that fully covers the pyramids was developed, enabling it to retain the liquid organic solution that is then added via spin-coating. 

The substrate is heated to a relatively low temperature of 150°C to crystallize a homogeneous film of perovskite on top of the silicon pyramids, providing a uniform coating and elimination of material accumulation in the pyramid valleys. 

“We are proposing to use equipment that is already in use, just adding a few specific stages. Manufacturers won’t be adopting a whole new solar technology, but simply updating the production lines they are already using for silicon-based cells,” explains Christophe Ballif, head of EPFL’s Photovoltaics Laboratory and CSEM’s PV-Center.

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SNEC 2018: BREAKING: Semco initiates major transition to China to capitalise on technology adoption

France-based specialist PV manufacturing equipment supplier Semco Technologies has announced at SNEC 2018 that its complete suite of PV manufacturing equipment would be spun-off and form a Joint Venture (JV) business in China with Ganshang Technology Group, a Suzhou City-based holding group combining smart economy with industrial investment.

The JV partners held a press conference and signing event at SNEC, highlighting that Semco’s PV manufacturing equipment operations would gradually be transferred to the new JV in China, which will be named, Semco Greentech.

This would involve Semco’s well established ‘LYDOP’ reduced pressure diffusion and ‘TWYN’ PECVD passivation layer equipment as well as its ‘Crystalmax’ cast mono ingot furnaces.

Importantly, Semco’s ‘HORTUS’ LPCVD for passivated contact applications would also be directly available from Semco Greentech. 

At PV CellTech 2018, Raymond de Munnik, VP business development at Semco highlighted in a key presentation that passivated contacts had already been adopted for leading-edge high-efficiency solar cells in volume production with N-type mono wafer technology but further success would be adoption in the P-type mono sector. 

Passivated contacts were already P-type compliant and made full contact and full passivation, creating a stepping stone approach to post PERC technologies, while offering significant simplification of press steps over migrations to heterojunction and IBC cell technologies, while expected to provide cell conversion efficiencies of over 24%. 

Semco said that its R&D activities would be strengthened in Europe to support the adoption of new technologies and collaborations with a greater number of China-based PV manufacturers. 

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