A Few Lead The Encapsulation Segment

While EVA Still Leading The Encapsulation Segment, POE Is Increasingly Preferred In Bifacial

A Few Lead The Encapsulation Segment

Leader loosing shares: Transparent EVA, which was enjoying the lion’s share of 70% in 2019, had slipped to 54% in 2020, while all the other encapsulation solutions benefited from its fall and gained shares. (Source: TaiyangNews 2021)

  • TaiyangNews market survey on backsheets and encapsulation segment reveals that in 2020 EVA in total accounted to 75% of market share, of which white EVA is gaining ground with 20% stake
  • POE growing its popularity with 25% share with the advent of bifacial; of which the coextruded structure taking 10% shares
  • Hangzhou First remained the unprecedented leader of the encapsulation segment with more than 50% market share in 2020
  • While HiUV and Sveck are the other leading encapsulation materials suppliers, Cybrid is determined to make a mark in this segment as well

The polymer chemistry choices in the encapsulation segment are primarily between EVA and POE. While traditionally EVA has been enjoying a monopoly, POE gained limelight due to the widespread adoption of bifacial technology.

For the first time, and similar to the backsheets segment, our market survey on encapsulation material has received input from one component supplier – Resin supplier Dow provided information (see: Solar Backsheet Components Market Shares).

The inventor of POE, Dow has been supplying different polyolefins to a wide variety of industries, including automotive, infrastructure and consumer segments. For PV, the company initially supplied POE films directly to module makers under the ENLIGHT brand. However, in 2013, the US company decided to move up the value chain to supply only resin. While Bifacial PV has grown over the last 3 years, so has the demand for POE. In terms of market share, Yuyan Li from the POE business unit of Dow claims that the company caters to majority of the bifacial market, given that it is the largest producer of POE and its very well established status in PV. The most important trend in the POE segment is faster curing rates that can reduce lamination time. Looking ahead, the topics of making POE compatible with MBB – not being slippery with round interconnection and reducing costs – are also on Dow’s radar. The polymer expert is also working towards speeding up the POE film production lines at their customers. On the other hand, Li says that film makers can adjust the formulations to prevent slippage of round ribbon and even module makers have workarounds to avoid it. However, it seems some module producers are still holding on to pure POE films in a bargain for higher reliability.

As far as thermoplastic variant of polyolefins are concerned, Li explains that it is a film technology rather than a resin technology, and even Dow’s resin can be used for producing thermoplastic polyolefins. The ENLIGHT, which was sold to Hangzhou First, was also a thermoplastic variant of polyolefin film technology.

At the product level, encapsulation materials fall under different branches following the same chemistry. While EVA has fundamentally been transparent, it has been tweaked to be white in order to improve the optical gains of the module with increased reflections from cell gaps. Polyolefin, typically used on the rear side of p-type PERC bifacial modules, is increasingly being replaced with a coextruded multi-layer structure consisting of a POE film sandwiched between two layers of EVA.

As in the past, transparent EVA is still dominating the encapsulation segment with a market share of 55% in 2020, while white EVA is gaining ground ending 2020 at 20%. The remaining 25% belongs to polyolefins, split between single layer POE at 15% and coextruded EPE at 10%, respectively.

Let alone the choice in polymer chemistry and configurations, even the suppliers for encapsulation materials are not too many. Traditionally, the segment has been ruled by three companies – Hangzhou First, HIUV and Sveck. Similar to encapsulant producers finding their way into the backsheet business (see: Top 2 Took More Than 1/3rd) , such as Hangzhou First, there’s a prominent example for the opposite direction: Cybrid is now also a leading encapsulation material supplier. However, no other supplier comes even close to Hangzhou First, which commands more than half of the market share. The company once again ended up as top supplier in 2020 with its shipments of EVA and POE totaling 865 million m2, a YoY growth of 15.6%. According to Hangzhou First, the shipments represent somewhere between 55 and 60% of the market, with a production base of 1.05 billion m2. By the end of H1/2021 , the company added new capacity of 110 million m2 and sold 416 million m2 of encapsulation material.

The year 2020 was a good year for encapsulation suppliers in general. The shortage of encapsulant materials and the increase in demand played their parts, with the top encapsulation suppliers recording higher revenues and profits, according to Collin Quean from HIUV. However, given that the company is public, Quan declined to reveal annual shipment numbers; instead he pointed to the 2020 financial report, but which only provides financial information. HIUV’s net profits increased by 230% year-on-year, its total operating income increased 39.5% in the same period to CNY 483 billion, and the profit in absolute terms reached CNY 221 million. HIUV’s improved financial numbers are attributed to its efforts towards expanding its production capacity, increase in sales volume and average unit sales price of EVA film. HIUV estimates its market share at about 15%. It had a production capacity of 30 GW at the end of last year, increasing to somewhere between 40 and 45 GW by the end of H1/2021. The company plans to quickly and strongly expand its manufacturing base to 100 GW by the end of 2022 . The new facilities coming online will not only cater to increasing solar demand but also address any demand spikes.

Cybrid is also very determined to carve a niche for itself in the encapsulation segment. It sold 66 million m2 of encapsulation material in total, with the bulk of 65 million m2 representing POE and 1 million m2 for EVA. However, like HIUV, Cybrid also has strong expansion plans. It is adding new capacity on top of its existing base of 25 million m2 per month, which is expected to be online by the end of this year. This capacity expansion is expected to help Cybrid capture a 15% market share in the total encapsulation segment, according to Cybrid’s marketing director Xinjun Li.  Cybrid has already a share of 17.5% in the POE segment. “By the end of this year, we will be second or third largest encapsulation supplier in the world,” said Li (see interview: Discussing Solar Backsheet & Encapsulation Trends).

The Text is an excerpt from TaiyangNews’ recent Market Survey on Backsheet and Encapsulation Materials, which can be downloaded for free here

An overview of the survey was presented during TaiyangNews Conference on Reliable PV Module Design. To learn more about the conference and view the presentations click here

Today the workhorse of the solar industry are still PERC cells; TaiyangNews will organize a virtual conference on Pushing PERC Cells to Its Limits on March 22, 2022. To register for free, please click here.

About The Author

Shravan Chunduri

Shravan Chunduri is Head of Technology at TaiyangNews. Shravan caught the solar bug vey early in this career, starting 20 years ago in research, followed by solar manufacturing, then writing and consulting. His responsibility spans from writing technology articles and reports.

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