- Day 3 of TaiyangNews High Efficiency Solar Technologies Conference looked in-depth at the global solar market and cell technology trends
- Global solar installations are expected to grow 47% annually to 268 GW in 2022 with China contributing 126 GW, according to BloombergNEF
- While cost is important for all stakeholders, it is efficiency that determines which cell technology will dominate the market
- PST is coming up big time with higher efficiencies reported by various players, yet commercialization is a few years away
After addressing two high-efficiency cell technologies on each of the first two days of our TaiyangNews High Efficiency Solar Technologies, on the final third day, we have covered more general topics under the theme, Global Solar Market & Cell Technology Trends. The first presentation dealt with the supply and demand dynamic in the quickly growing solar market at times of a war in Europe that ignited a severe energy crisis with countries now striving to more energy independence and decarbonization of energy supply.
Youru Tan, Solar Analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BloombergNEF), reflected on the demand and supply scenario in the global solar industry, providing a latest update on the PV supply chain. BloombergNEF now anticipates as much as 268 GW of new solar installations coming online in 2022, as China exits the year with an impressive volume of 126 GW, significantly more than twice the number it reported last year (see China Added 53 GW Record Solar Volume In 2021). It would be a 47% annual growth in global numbers.
Cumulative global deployments are further forecast to exceed 316 GW in 2023. It also sees manufacturers being able to deliver 500 GW modules next year, ‘if demand exists’.
The confidence stems from growing PV manufacturing capacity as one of the biggest bottlenecks related to polysilicon supply gets cleared. With more polysilicon capacity coming online and its price dropping from $39/kg in at present to $15/kg by the end of 2023, Tan calculates the in-house module production cost of $24.0/W now to decrease sharply to $16.8/W by next year.
Tan also shared estimates regarding high efficiency solar cell capacities. As of Q4/2021, 7.3 GW PERT/TOPCon, and 6.3 GW HJT capacity had been commissioned with another 15 GW and 10.7 GW under construction, respectively. IBC had 1.8 GW commissioned globally, with plans announced for 8.5 GW.
Jialin Ru from the International Cooperation Department of the China Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) presented the Chinese solar industry technology roadmap and provided an update on PV technology developments in the country. According to Ru, in the initial 3 quarters of 2022, more than 2/3rd were rooftop installations in China, including commercial and industrial (C&I) segment. When asked if he agreed with the 126 GW additions in 2022 as forecasted by Tan in his presentation, Ru agreed that such dimensions are possible, emphasizing that also in 2021 the fourth quarter was by far the largest.
LONGi Solar’s Senior Product Marketing Manager Jason Yan, while relating the evolution of PV cell and module technology, said his company was working on all technologies since there is potential for all. LONGi, he added, is and will thoroughly evaluate all promising technologies for performance potential and cost trade-off. The manufacturer plans to stick to M10 (182mm) module format calling it the ‘optimal size’ for utility scale power plants.
Yan opined that historically it is eventually the technology that brings down LCOE, which is the key metric for solar in the market. And efficiency helps bring LCOE down so the focus of future technology innovation should be on efficiency improvement. And that’s why they have opted among all the technologies they are working for, LONGi has expanded its Hi-MO high efficiency solar module series with the launch of Hi-MO 6 with an impressive 22.8% maximum efficiency in mass production, designed ‘exclusively’ for the global distributed consumer market (see New Record Efficiency Module With Back Contact Cell From LONGi).
RCT Solutions’ CEO Dr. Peter Fath who is also the technical advisor for Kalyon PV of Turkey delved into solar manufacturing cost analysis along the silicon value chain. RCT has designed and supervised building the vertically integrated PV facility of Kalyon and is involved in several other manufacturing projects outside China. Fath said that building a business case for a complete in-house value chain, right from silicon to module even including glass, encapsulants, can bring a lot of benefits from a cost perspective, while providing flexibility to react on technology trends at the same time.
At the same time, it will ensure supply security. This model can even be cost competitive outside China, according to Fath. Of course, funding is required for what he termed as Integration 3.0. Governments in several countries have already promised financial support for several such initiatives, with the most prominent being India’s PLI and the US IRA incentives, something that should give confidence to investors.
Also representing LONGi was Yichun Wang, the company’s Head of Product Research Development, R&D Center, Silicon Wafer BU, who gave a status update on global wafer developments. Comparing wafer specifications for various cell technologies, Wang said the oxygen tolerance of TOPCon is very low, compared to PERC or even HJT due to high temperature required during boron diffusion, however wafer production now keeps oxygen levels at less than 12 ppma level to address the issue.
As for HJT, it supports lower wafer thickness with 130 µm already in mass production. For TOPCon, surface tolerance is currently quite low, but it can be improved for HJT by deep texturing of 6 µm to 7 µm. She also pointed out that n-type wafers are more expensive due to higher costs of polysilicon, low load capacity in crucibles, yield, recycling degree and quantity.
Presenting LED based IV characterization solar cells, Dr. Bernhard Klöter, Data Scientist at Wavelabs, batted for LED flashers terming these accurate and flexible to adapt to decreasing measurement time as throughput has been increasing for PERC. For more sensitive HJT, integrated software is possible to correct deviations. He said that reaching a throughput of 5,000 wafers per hour requires a cycle time of 0.72 seconds, in turn putting a limit on measurement time at less than 50 ms.
To bring IV characterization pace at par with industry levels, Wavelabs has developed an algorithm called RapidWAVE that it claims reduces measurement time of such HJT cells to less than 30 ms. The German start-up’s IV testing platform also supports testing cell slices – be it 2 or 3 – without adding testing time proportionately, a feature that is relevant to HJT fabs that have started adapting half cell processing.
The final presentation on day 3 was provided by Gianluca Coletti, Program Manager PV Tandem at TNO and Adjunct Professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), who shared his outlook on next generation solar cell technologies, particularly perovskite silicon tandem (PST). He called 2022 a great year for PST as for the 1st time its efficiency exceeded 30% level on 2T and 4T, by several players. Even for large areas, efficiencies of over 26% are being reported, and Kaneka even exceeded 30% for a larger size as well.
Nonetheless, there is no winning tandem configuration yet and still different applications are used for the different benefits they bring to the table.
As for commercialization of PST, Coletti cites 3 main challenges, namely large-scale manufacturing costs; reliability and long term stability; and module integration into final product to be tested in real outdoor conditions. He expects another 3 to 5 years for PV industry to get there.
Interview with LONGi leadership
One of the major highlights of day 3, in fact of the entire 3-day conference, was an exclusive interview with LONGi Green Energy Technology’s Founder and President Zhenguo Li, and the company’s Vice President, Central R&D Institute Dr. Xixiang Xu.
Speaking to TaiyangNews Managing Director Michael Schmela regarding the LONGi’s recent new solar cell world record of 26.81% efficiency, Xu shared the team was able to improve the amorphous silicon layer as passivating layer that helped lower the deposition rate. After 3 failed attempts, according to Xu, they were successful in developing a nanocrystalline p-layer that helped in the efficiency. An improved TCO also helped the manufacturer get super high fill factor of 86.59%, which Xu said was critical.
Li emphatically added that the company will continue to further scale efficiency going forward, to help bring down costs and make solar a much more desirable power generation technology for the world. And, it won’t rest at PERC/TOPCon alone. Li revealed that LONGi is working on PST as well, with a pilot line of 2 MW to 3 MW, but did not share other details.
1 TW PV market by 2030
Li was very optimistic of the global annual solar PV installations growing to 1 TW by 2030, but said realizing it will depend on a number of factors especially the need for all countries taking carbon neutrality goal seriously and not as a joke. The demand that arises out of this situation will definitely be met provided there aren’t any wars and there is enough supply of components and labor.
TaiyangNews takes this opportunity to announce our next and final event for this year, on December 14, 2022. The TaiyangNews Virtual Conference on Reliable PV Module Design—How to Make High-Quality Solar Modules will bring together stakeholders from different parts of the module manufacturing chain to discuss latest findings on how to make high-quality solar panels that stands the test of time.
Registrations to the event are free and can be done here.