Quick Rise In Backsheets’ Material Prices

While PVDF Is The Most Significant, Raw Material Prices For Backsheets Across The Board Shot Up Significantly

Quick Rise In Backsheets’ Material Prices

High, higher, PVDF: All backsheets got more pricey in 2021 year-on-year but the rear covers containing PVDF increased the most with a price hike of about 40%. (Source: TaiyangNews 2021)

  • Due to the shortage of resin, the prices for PVDF films used in backsheets nearly doubled in 2021 compared to 2020 level
  • All PVDF-free stuctures of backsheets are gaining popularity with quick rise in PVDF price, while the CPC is getting at most benefit of the situation
  • The prices for other raw materials used in backsheets such as PET and PE have also increased
  • TaiyangNews Market Survey on Backsheets and Encapsulation Materials provides a overview on price increase of final backsheets due to the price hike in raw materials

Sky-high PVDF prices have been a burning topic in the backsheet segment. The price of PVDF film almost doubled from 2.5 CNY/m2 in 2020 to 4.5 to 5 CNY/min 2021 as a result of the dramatic rise in the price of resin for PVDF, according to Fumotech’s Wei.

Jolywood’s Marketing Director Chad Yuan said the price for this resin increased from 70,000 CNY/ton to 220,000 CNY/ton, an increase of 320%, while ZTT put this range at 60,000 CNY/ton to 180,000 CNY/ton. This price increase has been mainly due to a resin shortage arising from increased demand from electrical vehicles, as PVDF is used in lithium-ion batteries. The key stakeholders of the backsheet segment are in regular dialogue with resin makers, according to Cybrid’s Marketing Director XinjunLi. He estimates that the supply situation could ease by October 2022. By then the damage could be huge and partly irreversible.

First, this is seriously affecting those companies that have been mainly focusing on products based on PVDF, but not only them. The first ones to be affected were PVDF suppliers such as Fumotech, which expects its market share to decrease by 10% over 2020. This is not just a consequence of module makers evaluating other backsheet configurations, but backsheets as a segment also faces tough competition from glass. With glass vendors having dramatically decreased prices, it is a good opportunity for module manufacturers to replace backsheets with glass altogether. In fact, the backsheet segment is expected to fall by about 5 to 10% already in 2021. (see: Solar Backsheet Components Market Share)

On the other hand, Cybrid’s Li noted that the degree of price increase for PVDF is not directly reflected in backsheet prices. The final backsheet price went up by 2 to 3 CNY per square meter. “It is still affordable and in fact is at a level seen 3 years ago,” he emphasized. While representatives from some module manufacturers we talked to in early 2021 did not agree with this argument, towards the end of the year PV panel prices have tended back towards the level they were 3 years ago as well. Although cost reductions are not entirely driven by materials, with technologies such as half cell, MBB and larger wafers playing a major role there, the industry continues to pursue alternative solutions.

CPC is the most popular alternative, most prominently seen in action at tier 2 module makers, but not limited to. Jolywood is a key promoter of coatings-based products, which it started offering in 2008. As of June 2021, the total FFC double-sided coating backsheet shipments exceeded 350 million m2, or 70 GW in module terms, according to Yuan. “After 14 years of outdoor use and no complaints, the market has started recognizing our products,” he added. The coatings-based configuration also offers other advantages such as glue-less construction and fewer process steps, high production efficiency and improved production yields, ultimately providing outstanding cost performance ratio, according to Jolywood. Coveme has also developed coating technologies for different backsheet applications, as Manara emphasizes. “The quality of the coating must be really strong and exactly reflect that of the layers in terms of hydrolysis and UV barriers,” she said.

Not just coatings, all PVDF-free structures such as PET based, non-fluorine coatings and coextruded products, including Endurans HPO and all-PP configuration from Borealis, are clearly gaining popularity. Even Tedlar, an expensive fluoropolymer, is seeing increased demand on this account.

The firm believers of films cannot seem to agree that coatings can replace the outer protection layers. Endurans’ Annet Hoek, global communication and brandind lead, in fact opined that the industry simply resorted to using less and less material, or materials that cost lower, rather than focusing on innovation, both of which pose reliability risks. Fumotech’s Jiajing Wei from Fumotech’s Marketing Depratment also points out that fluorine content of the coatings at 20% is relatively less than that of films, which is 40% for PVDF. As an alternative to PVDF as the outer layer, Fumotech for example is developing a new film that can compete with the price of CPC or even PP, but Wei refrained from providing any details, whereas Cybrid is working on the PPf structure.

Not just the prices of PVDF, all raw material prices related to backsheet production have increased in general, albeit not to the tune of PVDF. According to Coveme, the price for PET raw materials increased in H1/2021 somewhere in the range of 15% to close to 25%, while the PE film price also increased also 15% to 35% (see graphs for reference).

As a result, backsheet prices have also seen a commensurate increase. Jolywood provided the average reference prices from 2020 and 2021 for the purposes of comparison.

  • CPC: 2020 – CNY 9.5 CNY/m2; 2021: CNY 12.5 (CNY/m2)
  • KPC: 2020 – CNY 10 CNY/m2; 2021: CNY 14 CNY/m2
  • TPC: 2020 – CNY 17 – 18 CNY/m2; 2021: CNY 17 – 18 CNY/m2

Declining to quantify the values, Coveme’s COO Monica Manara said that PET-based backsheet prices in 2021 went up 10 to 15% over 2020 She also emphasizes that CPC remains the most competitive, especially if technologies lead to high productivity, which implies the prices of PET-based backsheets fall in between KPC and CPC. Since Endurans launched its product only previous year, Hoek says that there is no reference data, but points out that backsheet prices are expected to increase 10 to 20% due to the increase in raw material and logistics costs. “The market is positioning itself on different prices due to cost increases in raw materials, but also to increases in costs throughout the entire supply chain,” says Manara.

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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