23 October 2011
Posted in News - SPVI news
Chinese companies are keeping up with newest innovations, spending in ample fashion and getting even or ahead of competition.
The drive to capture the market has been clearly scale and the drop of the ASP. Companies in the space which have been managing the “staying” power without much of the surprise comprise mostly of Chinese. The easiest way to determine success rate amongst them is to look at earnings power.
HIT (heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer ) produced by Sanyo
At the same time technological edge is an important part of differentiation and creating future. Innovation as a cost reducing factor has been part of the solar expansion, and this dynamic will not change. Chinese have been accused of lagging in the innovation at the price of expanding their capacity. Creativity and invention have been traditionally from Europe and US, but this is changing. Access to cash and cash flows availability delivered by scale based earnings fuel research and development, which revises the traditional thinking.
The innovation can be split in product invention and manufacturing innovation leading to cost reduction.
Until now, the majority of latest production equipment and material technology went one way into China from Europe and US. Chinese tier 1 use the best available equipment to fight the cost, but emergence of Chinese tooling companies is biting into the sector owned by Swiss, German and American companies. Companies like JYT and Jinggong are already on the forefront of change how Asia processes silicon. Asians: GCL and OCI are leading polysilicon revolution in cost and scale, putting Europeans in a back seat. In the area of the precision tooling needed to transition ingots into wafers and further to cells, US and Europe are dominant force. Automation, big load acceptance, diamond wire, laser drilling and imprinting improve production yields. Companies like Applied Materials, Swiss Meyer Burger and German Centrotherm lead this segment and in the near future they will remain at the top keeping healthy interdependence in place.
|R&D Spent H1 2011 US listed|
|First Solar||$ 64,453|
|JA Solar||$ 6,200|
Product innovation leads to better conversion, higher output, cheaper installation and long-term sustainability.
In the recent SPI, number of companies had shown their polycrystalline or multicrystalline modules with high conversion. At the aperture (area of collecting the sun rays) Q-cells showed 18.1% and Schott 18.2%.
This may be confusing for someone. Schott has also announced mono cell with conversion of 20.2%, at 156mm size, the cell had an output of 4.92W. In the module this produced 280W output with 16.7% conversion.
The difference is size. The mono based module had a size of 1.68 m2 versus standard size of 1.65 m2 . In comparison Q-cells multi based module with 18.1% at the aperture area with size of 1.492 m2. Based on the aperture results if mounted in the regular standard module Q-cells would deliver 16.24% conversion based on published 268Wp. Nevertheless Q-cells have also produced the largest to date conversion of the multicrystalline cell at 19.5%. Standard size cell would have an output of 4.74W per piece.
How do Chinese stack up? The highest level of output achieved is 265W (below table) with cells being at 18.4%. Considering the scale and production capability associated with low cost, Chinese companies are up there with the leaders in innovation. Particularly with the use of MWT (metal wrap through) offered by Canadian modules achieve 265W with conversion of 16.7% in mono category. In addition, Trina has delivered very high results in the lab for its Honey cells. Module equipped with it produced output of 274W, or 16.77% conversion, using standard module size of 1.65 m2. Furthermore recently Yingli announced pursuing MWT technology (similar to Canadian) based on the success of its bifacial mono cell "Panda" module to produce higher efficiency cells. In the lab Yingli produced 19.7% cell and 17.6% module efficiency. In the standard size this would equate to 290W of output, which in fact beats best result from Schott in mono category.
Top module characteristics quasi-mono
|Module Eff %||15.3||16.2||15.9||15.8||15.3||16.24||16.24|
|Cell type||p type||p type||p type||p type||p type||p type||p type|
|cell eff %||18.2||18.4||18>||18<||17.64||18.7||19.5|
|cell format||Regular||Regular||string ribbon||MWT||Regular||PERC passivation layer bettwen, 3 bus bars||Metalized back contact|
|Lab record Trina||274W|
Yet, the top performing cell in mono belongs to Sunpower, US company. SunPower's 22.4 percent efficient patented Maxeon™ cell technology uses all-back contact (oppose to MWT or HIT used by Sanyo) allowing to capture significantly more sunlight and conducts more electrical current than conventional solar cells. 240W module packs the size of 1.24 m2 and has 72 mentioned cells at module conversion worth 19.2%. Conventional 60 cell module at 240W requires 33% more space
Top module characteristics mono
|Module Eff %||16.2||16.47||16.2||15.3||15.9||16.7||15.9|
|Cell type||p type||p type||n type||p type||p type||p type||p type|
|cell eff %||19.2||19.5||18.5||17||18.7||20.20%||?|
|cell format||Reg||MWT||high transmission glass, bifacial||Reg||Reg||PERC|
Sunpower, Hanwha and Canadian had come up with AC modules recently. AC module is still producing DC power output. However equipped with macroinverter switches power at the module to AC. This produces more efficiency collecting power as well better maintenance, understanding the power generation at module level and address any production failures.
Zap Solar added Sharp and Hanwha to its licensing program, already impressive list of partners includes Canadian Solar, Centrosolar, eco-Kinetics, ET Solar, Trina Solar, UpSolar and Yingli Solar.
Key parts of its offering, aside from the Zep Groove frame, include the interlocks to string together and automatically ground the panels, wire clips for anchoring the cable wires, and what it calls the array skirt that gives the front and public-facing part of the system a more polished look.
Tigo Energy revealed that Trina solar, Hanwha Solar and Upsoalr are now offering the company’s smart panel technology, which features the Tigo Energy Maximizer for solar PV installations. The Maximizer is said to allow PV project owners to increase the systems power production by reducing the effects of shade, dust, clouds and uneven temperature on system performance.
The Chinese companies are on the forefront of change in area of technology; even so that individual global companies may have produced better results in few of the areas. Chinese are able to combine new techniques, produce own inventions or license others. As time progresses, the sheer scale of the profitability and cash flows, may bring some of the European know-how under Asian roofs through mergers or acquisitions. The relationship between Schott and Hareon is an example of such cooperation in area of manufacturing, but future may see other innovation based deals.
Silevo, a small company which introduced own cell with single copper bus bar “free of silver” pastes, is looking to manufacture its invention in China also in joint venture setting. The rapid growth of solar industry has to date allow for drop of ASP and particularly aggressive inventory built. As inventions fuel separation based on quality, large scale is poised to produce greater access to progress than conventional technique and legacy equipment firms. Since the equipment spent is going to drop due to lack of purchasing power, makers will have to become more advanced to deliver low cost high yield machinery. The traditional commodity nature of solar industry may become the perception of the past, as much as the view about knowledge distribution between West and East.
- China’s Solar Industry Lacks Differentiation, ECN Sees n-Type Technology as a Solution
- Technological Development of High Performance Polycrystalline Wafers
- EU: PVSEC Kicks Off with a Number of Innovative Products
- PV firms and research institutes gearing up for EU PVSEC
- Nexolon Aspires to Global Leadership in the Aftermath of the Industry Shakeup