The PV industry is increasingly finding new applications for solar modules. Floating PV and AgriPV are a few that have been added to the list and have been attracting traction in recent times. However, traditional utility scale solar has remained the core application for PV panels. TaiyangNews Advanced Solar Module Technologies 2021 report has summarized the developments associated with PV panels that are exclusively promoted for utility scale applications. The section has the highest number of products of any single application category in our survey.
Utility-scale projects are large installations, sometimes even reaching GW-scale – and, as such, the focus is mainly on high power keeping EPC and BOS costs of the installations in view. But high power alone does not suffice. To realize the benefits of BOS cost reduction, the voltage of the module has to be maintained at the same level while increasing the current of the module so that the string count can be kept in check, as explained in in one of our previous articles (see Cost Reduction Through Larger Wafers). Such an approach helps in reducing the costs associated with electrical components. The benefits of using high power modules is even more pronounced when using string inverters and trackers.
Size is another important characteristic of the module when using trackers. Maximum utilization of tracker support area, determined by the module size, is an important aspect that should be taken into account. Bifacial technology, with its ability to increase the power yield, is a technology that is increasingly preferred, and bringing trackers into the mix is turning out to be even more beneficial ( – a topic we will discuss at our upcoming Solar Tracker Conference on April 13. Free registration here).
The listing of ‘advanced’ modules for utility-scale solar in our survey consists of 40 products from 7 suppliers, meeting the qualification criterion of featuring at least the combination of half cells and MBB. As one could expect, none of the products based on other advanced module technologies are promoted for the utility-only application. It can be observed from the listing that the idea of employing larger wafers for increasing peak power is one that is well received in this segment. After M10 (182 mm) made its debut less than a year ago, now 17 out of the 40 products listed in this section are based on this wafer size. The largest 210 mm wafer based modules hardly find a representation in the ‘pure’ utility-scale segment with only one company, Canadian Solar Inc. (CSI), listing 4 products. Instead 210 mm products are more prominent in the C&I fusion segments. The underrepresentation in this segment stems from companies choosing to enhance the spectrum of an application by tagging them ‘utility and C&I’ products, as mentioned above, the dearth of suppliers notwithstanding.
Separately, bifacial has turned into a preferred technology for module designs for utility applications, which is also evident from the fact that 22 products out of the 40 featured are now bifacial. Two companies in our listing, Jolywood and Talesun, are even offering bifacial advanced modules with transparent rear cover. When it comes to the number of cells, 72-cell equivalent modules seem to be the mainstream as 28 of the products listed are based on this layout, while the 78-cell equivalent appears to be a budding trend. Being the latest wafer size, M10 has more products listed in the 78-cell equivalent segment compared to the 72-cell variant. Our view is that the 60-cell equivalent modules are not suitable for utility-scale applications in smaller wafer sizes, warranting their exclusion from the list. However, the same 60-cell equivalent modules in the 210 mm format, due to their very high-power ratings, fight their way into the list. In fact, the most powerful module of our overview, the 66-cell equivalent PERC panel based on 210 mm wafer format from CSI is also addressing power plant type installations. The same configuration is also promoted as bifacial variant that is rated with one power class (5W) less . This same formula is applied to the 60-cell equivalent product group with 600 W and 595 W power for monofacial and bifacial, respectively.
While modules based on high-efficiency cell architectures such as n-type were not primarily targeted for utility applications, the trend seems to be changing. We include 5 modules based on n-type cell technologies. The 615 W TOPCon module from Jolywood would have been the most powerful in our listing, if not for Canadian Solar’s 210 mm p-type module with a rating of 665 W. Given the demands of the utility segment, monocrystalline is increasingly becoming the material of choice, while multicrystalline is silently and quickly fading away. Only 2 M6-based multicrystalline modules from CSI qualified for our listing, one a 78-cell equivalent configuration with a power rating of 475 W and the other a 72-cell equivalent rated at 440 W.
The text is an excerpt from the TaiyangNews Advanced Solar Module Technologies 2021 report. For more details on advanced solar modules and their applications in various segments, please download our TaiyangNews report on Advanced Solar Module Technologies 2021, here.
TaiyangNews’ Advanced Module Conference 2021 Videos are available on YouTube; to view the event recordings click here.
The next TaiyangNews event, our 1st Solar Tracker Conference will take place on April 13. Register for free here.