TaiyangNews talked to Jeff Zhou, director of global product management at JinkoSolar, about background, technology details, rollout plans and applications for its new Tiger solar module series, which is based on tiling ribbon technology (source: JinkoSolar).
JinkoSolar has just introduced a new module series called Tiger that is based on tiling ribbon, a new technology that belongs like shingling and paving to the family of high energy density panels. TaiyangNews' Shravan Chunduri talked to Jeff Zhou, director of global product management at JinkoSolar about background, technology details, rollout plans and applications for the Tiger series.
Jeff Zhou is director of global product management at Jinko Solar. He has been working with JinkoSolar for over 3 years. Previously, he worked in project management, incuding project feasibility analysis as well as design, construction and system commissioning.
TaiyangNews: JinkoSolar is not only the world’s largest module maker, but has also been a long-time leader in technology development. Could you explain the technology bifurcation of your module products?
Jeff Zhou: Jinko Solar is a leading technology company. We always thrive to develop a right product range that would speed up the path to reach global grid parity, which is one of our key targets. When we develop a new product, we always keep in mind that the final system cost shall be competitive. Look at our Cheetah series promoted in 2018 during SNEC, which launched the era of PV4.0. The same is true with our bifacial Swan series, which was launched at this year’s SNEC 2019. Bloomberg estimates that the market share of bifacial in 2020 would be around 15 to 21%. Our Swan series not only addresses the ever-growing bifacial segment, JinkoSolar’s value addition to bifacial technology is to add a transparent backsheet. The industry is aware of the advantages of transparent backsheet because of its differentiated features. Then, during the All Energy Australia show in October, we introduced another innovative module series – Tiger, which has a 20.78% module efficiency and up to 460 W output power in mono-facial design.
These innovations and developments are strong indications that our product roadmap is always aimed at speeding the process of reaching grid parity with the help of new technologies.
TaiyangNews: The Tiger series is not only the latest, but it is also based on a brand-new technology.
Jeff Zhou: We have been working on the Tiger series for almost one year. Like with any new products, we collected the feedback from customers about what the market demands and further trends. Based on this feedback, we incorporated three key features into the Tiger series:
- Tiling ribbon technology, which eliminates the cell gaps and enables utilizing the total active module area for sun absorption;
- Tiger series employs multi busbar interconnection technology using circular ribbons. This contributes to better field test performance because light absorption will be reutilized by circular ribbon, as well as superior low irradiance performance due to series resistance. This results in higher energy output during commercial operation of a project;
- Tiger modules also feature half-cut cells, which is quite mature in the industry.
TaiyangNews: Since ribbon tiling technology is very new, could you provide some technical background of your ribbon tiling technology?
Jeff Zhou: We see high module power output is a trend in PV module manufacturing. The Tiger series is a product with high energy density, which means we will use the module area sufficiently to achieve higher power – and that’s exactly what markets/customers are demanding.
TaiyangNews: There are some other similar technologies such as paving and shingling. What was the reason to opt for tiling ribbon technology? And what are advantages of your tiling ribbons technology over the others?
Jeff Zhou: You are right. Comparing to our tiling ribbons the technologies you mentioned are similar. When we did our customer survey, we identified that high module power is a strong trend. At the same time, the module efficiency should also be increased, which offers benefits, for example, reducing BOS cost, land area and construction times. Our Tiger series addresses these two requests – higher power and efficiency. When it comes to paving, there is still some distance between the cells, thus it did not fully meet our development requirement. When it comes to shingling, we have our own concerns such as CTM loss consideration and reliability assurance. Shingling introduced a new material – electrical conductive adhesive (ECA) –, which remains new while our tiling ribbon technology in Tiger is based on a relatively standard BOM. And according to our internal assessment, the performance of our tiling ribbons technology has comparable performance shingling.
TaiyangNews: Ribbon tiling also does not seem to be an easy process to master. Is it not worth to take a little more effort and go with shingling which has even more benefits in terms of module output power?
Jeff Zhou: As I said earlier, performance is one thing, but the reliability is equally important for JinkoSolar when launching a product. Shingling requires ECA, which is a new material and with tiling ribbon, adding nothing new to your BOM, is a safe bet. And we also believe that our Tiger series can reach the performance levels of the shingling modules according to our data assessment. Not only for JinkoSolar, but also we believe tiling ribbon will be the technology trend for the coming years in the industry. However, at the end it is a question of choice and I am explaining here, what are the factors that have influenced us to choose the tiling ribbons approach.
TaiyangNews: Of late, cells are having started to get thinner; how are you able to eliminate the risk of breakages and microcracks at the overlap?
Jeff Zhou: This is actually related to the manufacturability and reliability. If you look at our qualification process, there is one key aspect of it – how to control cracks and breakages. We use circular ribbons and these ribbons are flattened at the overlap areas. Then we also use special encapsulation material that can take care of cracks and microcracks and which has a good buffer effect especially to the overlapping area after lamination, to ensure excellent module reliability.
TaiyangNews: Often companies release products based on new technology as showcasing products. How serious are you with the Tiger technology? Could you provide Tiger rollout plans with capacities?
Jeff Zhou: The mass production of the Tiger series would start in the first half of 2020. Initially it will be several GW, further expansion depends on market demand.
TaiyangNews: What are the main markets you are targeting with your Tiger series? Is it more residential due to its appealing look or are you also promoting it for ground mount power plants due to its high power?
Jeff Zhou: The tiger series is a high-end product – it can be used for both rooftop and utility scale projects. For the rooftop segment, the area is usually limited. The Tiger series naturally qualifies for such rooftop requirements with its high efficiency. The utility market is mainly about the system’s overall cost or LCOE. Tiger helps in reducing BOS cost, as it enables installing more module power per string or requires less number of strings for total installations. This also saves on land and mounting or trackers. Then it is also highly suitable for projects located in high latitudes where land is limited. The module efficiency and higher power attributes of Tiger would be a significant value addition to the project. The projects with short and tight deadline can also benefit from Tiger series, as it can significantly reduce the number of modules required per project, thus it shortens the installations time.
TaiyangNews: Does the Tiger series also bring in any advantage at systems level and LCOE?
Jeff Zhou: We evaluated the EPC costs for a 100 MW project in Australia. The comparison is made between 430 W, which is already above the market average and our Tiger series with 460 W. As for the “E” part of the EPC, the engineering, the savings are mainly coming from reducing the strings quantity, which accounts for a saving of 2.9%. As for procurement, lowering the costs for trackers is the main part, while savings in combiner boxes and DC cables also add up. As for construction costs, the reduction is 6.5%. The overall savings at EPC level is about 1.1% based on conservative estimate and a very high base value. Relevant project IRR increases from 9.47% to 10.09%.
TaiyangNews: Now the market is already discussing about modules based on larger wafer formats, which brings in new module sizes. Even the Tiger series is also somewhat atypical due to a 78-cell configuration. What are the changes or challenges the installer has to handle to install Tiger modules?
Jeff Zhou: The background is, before we promote any new products, we will discuss with the main BOS suppliers such as trackers and inverters. We exchange our ideas to make sure that any new products from either end should be compatible with others. With the Tiger series we did the same and we found there’s not much difference for installers during the module’s installation, but indeed it creates added values with competitive system cost and shortened installation time
TaiyangNews: Thank you for the interview.