The Founder and Chairman of Chinese silicon and solar giant GCL, Gongshan Zhu sat down for an exclusive interview with TaiyangNews Managing Director Michael Schmela at the TaiyangNews and SNEC Energy Storage, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Leadership Conversations.
The interview (click on photo to watch video) was conducted at the recently concluded 8th (2023) International Energy Storage Technology, Equipment and Application Exhibition in Shanghai, China.
Already globally renowned in the world of solar PV as a market leader, GCL is also expanding its footprint to the field of battery storage. The company launched its battery storage system more than 7 years ago for the residential energy storage system (ESS) market in Australia when the Chinese government encouraged pilot players to go into lithium iron phosphate cathode material manufacturing. He stressed that the product was very well received in the market.
Starting with these initial steps, Zhu said his company GCL is now the 1st private company in China to have entered into lithium iron phosphate cathode material manufacturing.
Reflecting on how the battery storage market has evolved over the years, Zhu stated that back then the battery storage cost was very high which wasn’t competitive at all. Since then, it has come a long way as Zhu believes GCL has been successful in making the system quite affordable in Australia.
The focus of the group is on both large scale as well as distributed generation for ESS, even as the latter is more viable.
To ensure the quality of its battery products, Zhu shared that the company is vertically integrated throughout the battery storage chain, right from material to application, including inverters, system control, PVS, etc., and has proprietary technology with IP throughout the value chain.
GCL recently commissioned its lithium iron phosphate cathode material manufacturing in Sichuan. At the same time, Zhu shared that the company is working with some of the best names in each component of the battery chain, for instance Huawei, CATL, among others.
Responding to Schemla’s query about the company’s vision for its storage business, Zhu said the company doesn’t want to do a commodity product. Just like in the silicon field, GCL’s strategy is to focus on upstream for storage technology while working with best players in the market in the application and system control. “I am not going to follow the trend, I am going to write the trend,” declared Zhu.
Beyond the core business of silicon and solar, GCL is also present in the mobile power field through a subsidiary listed in Mainland China. It is committed to the development of mobile energy that will use artificial intelligence (AI) for real time monitoring of the power generation, storage and even battery swap technology.
This method, explained Zhu, is an intelligent, digital platform to manage the peak and valley values.
Anticipating the market to go from large-scale power station to distributed mobile power in the future, GCL is training its lens on combining AI with power charging and power generation. He added, “I’m very proud to say I’m working with Huawei to come up with the system that we call one second one kilometre supercharging system so you can charge your EV just over a cup of coffee, just listening to one song and your EV is fully charged.
GCL walked away from battery swapping stations business for electric vehicles (EV) in May 2023 and switched over to supercharging.
As for hydrogen, Zhu shared that the company is interested in expanding outside of China, but it is yet to invest heavily in this space.