The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Chinese solar cells manufacturer Runergy, Yang Yang sat down for an exclusive interview with TaiyangNews Managing Director Michael Schmela during SNEC Conference & Exhibition 2023 in China’s Shanghai as part of TaiyangNews & SNEC Solar Leadership Conversations.
Founded in 2013 as a technical services company, Runergy is currently in its 10th year of operations. Recalling its genesis, Yang said in 2015 it signed a contract with a Chinese factory to help improve their efficiency. It was followed by Runergy established its own solar cell fab in 2017.
At present, it has production fabs in some cities of China and in Thailand. At the end of 2022, it shipped 21 GW solar cells globally.
To ensure security of its supply chain, Runergy is also investing in polysilicon manufacturing, and may also venture into ingot and wafer production in the future to become a fully integrated manufacturer.
Yang shared that while solar cells remain the core business of Runergy, to stay closer to the end consumers and to complete vertical integration, the company has also forayed into module manufacturing.
Discussing the company’s production roadmap, Yang said Runergy at the end of 2022 had 50,000 tons annual polysilicon manufacturing capacity in Ningxia province. In Inner Mongolia, it is building another polysilicon fab with 80,000 tons.
For solar cells, Runergy is operating 26 GW all PERC capacity, and by the end of 2023 it plans to expand to about 36 GW which will all be TOPCon. Yang said the company may either keep operating PERC lines or may end up upgrading these to TOPCon which is something it needs to take a call on.
As for modules, Runergy has 12 GW operational capacity in China and 9 GW in Thailand. By 2023-end, it plans to expand in Thailand and also venture into production in the US.
Yang said the company currently has an average mass production PERC cell efficiency of about 23.6%. Once it reaches 24%, expected to be within the next year, Runergy will focus on TOPCon entirely. Especially since cost of production for TOPCon is going down compared to heterojunction (HJT) or IBC. For TOPCon, Yang expects to reach an average efficiency of about 26.5%.
TOPCon is not a new technology, said Yang. It was first given the name by Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE for tunnel oxide passivation structure, but a few years before that in around year 2000 SunPower of the US already used it as part of its IBC structure. It has existed in the lab too till now where it was being studied intensely, but it is gaining ground now in mass production.
According to Yang, this year the total expansion of TOPCon is about 400 GW and is getting higher very fast. He believes it is not a good thing for TOPCon as moving so fast will cut down its lifetime because technology will keep evolving every 2 years.
He predicts next step after TOPCon in the industry to be tandem.
In the next 3 to 5 years, more than 50% of Runergy’s solar cell capacity will be sold to its module customers. At present, it makes modules in China but wants to sell in the US so it is preparing to launch a fab there later this year details of which will be announced formally at Solar Power International (SPI) in September 2023.
At SNEC, Runergy exhibited various products including 600W TOPCon module made out of M10 cell structure with 23.2% efficiency.
Watch the complete interview with Runergy CTO Yang Yang and other SNEC exclusive executive interviews on TaiyangNews YouTube Channel.