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dydo    1,425

So I pointed out to the limitation of the wafer processing. All those improvements are about yield, purity leading to efficiency. Sorting is a mechanical process of finding efficient material, by measuring tools in automation or by hand using tools to recognize characteristics required to process it further. The percentage of quality wafers is less than total production. Cell is based on 100% quality material based on your design needs. This is where the technology takes a hold of wafer and can make huge difference. There is process damage and its elimination is also a factor measured. In module you lose some or more of that efficiency tightness to processes or chemistry or physics, all affecting costs and ultimately leading to greater conversion or lack thereof. There are so many options, that none of them is clearly the lead, MWT and the PERC, PERL etc are some of them, in case of cell processing. As I mentioned for revolution requirement you need in-house, technology design. How you get it is not by way of Applied Materials, which by nature of it is for sale to wide spread of operators, eliminating differentiation. I also said that wafering internally is a cost as opposed to add-on value, today. As the necessary evil Yingli cannot stop developing its fully integrated value chain, to not stay behind. This explains its ingot improvements. You will not see wafering capacities grow, but you will see cell and module eventually, while mass produced wafers will be bought by their specs and its limited availability will be essential in creating new relationships among companies. In case of SOL their path includes building relationships with companies to offer SOL cell technologies to keep up with the market trends. However in my scenario, of in-house created advantage, the top players will leave the solution providers behind, another words leaving the purchaser with secondary or as we see today, vanilla type equipment accessible to all. I would be looking for cell developments and module developments from companies which have a selling channels, brand. There could be exclusive agreements, and cooperation deals precluding for years technological expansion to others in specific or multiple of faucets. Naturally because of it, equipment costs will raise again. Equipment manufacturers will want to overcome leaders and attract purchasers. However due to limited buying pool, pricing with have to come up to make those efforts viable. Again top players may buy those and make them exclusive to close off other operators. Of course there will be as many other scenarios as participants and human ingenuity allows.

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Guest larryvand   
Guest larryvand

Anybody know what LG & Samsung bring to the solar table, other than loads and loads of cash and top notch engineering??? Should the Chinese be afraid??? Samsung spells trouble in any market they decide to get into, as their engineering is second to none IMO. http://solarpvinvestor.com/spvi-news/65-lg-announces-big-investment-in-green-energy-including-solar-energy

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explo    671

I think we are getting away from original question, which was who can make panels for 50 cents all-in cost and my point there was that not only the 50 cents cost per watt decides which panel provides lowest $/kWh for the plant. The power of the modules play a role too. So if SOL can make 52 cents all-in cost as they say and HSOL will make 58 cents with poly outsourced at 14 cents. The difference is actually bigger, since SOL makes 255w for their 52 cents compared to HSOL 240w for their 58 cents. Klothilde brought this up for the same reason I think, power saves BOS, that's why a TF panel at 12% module efficiency must cost much less than a c-Si module at 16% conversion efficiency in order for two plants built with the two solutions to have the same cost per kWh they produce. What causes the cost and power properties of the panels is not relavant in that plant economics analysis. The SOL solution makes most money for plant owners, that's why they grow fastest now. That's my conclusion at least, could be wrong. This is just the current state. In the future someone else might have the best solution to maximize kWh production per $ cost. In my opinion TF are the ones in most trouble here. SOL is first to sell, there's still 30gw+ left for others, but TF produces less kWh per $ than c-Si and there's a lot of c-Si capacity to fill the demand. For same reason SPWR with over 1 $/w in panel cost is not so hopelessly far behind the Chinese 55-60 cents as it seems, since their panels are already above 300w, way ahead of the standard 240w.

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dydo    1,425

The name of this thread is the question I am replying to. The matter of the owning the lowest cost is one of the answers. It is semi-logical to assume that cheapest things are in most demand, but that is not true unless they are equal in quality. Nothing you wrote about is in any contradiction to what I have written. I talk about a corporate roadmap or perhaps industry roadmap, you are looking into getting measurement of one company against another on current factors.

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explo    671

I believe that the new technology and conglomerat entry threats are sometimes overated. What these Chinese solar 11's are working on perfecting is to get a stable quality level output at low production cost, when run in mass production. Not reaching something in a lab. This difference is much bigger than many think. It's not just an IP portfolio that decides the winner, it's perfecting organization, manufacturing processes and technology and production platforms. It's all about the total net result of mass production.

Regarding the discussion topic I was mainly reponding to Klothilde's point about the c-Si cost. The general thread topic is like you say a broader topic, especially looking more long-term than next up cycle.

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dydo    1,425

I believe that the new technology and conglomerat entry threats are sometimes overated. What these Chinese solar 11's are working on perfecting is to get a stable quality level output at low production cost, when run in mass production. Not reaching something in a lab. This difference is much bigger than many think. It's not just an IP portfolio that decides the winner, it's perfecting organization, manufacturing processes and technology and production platforms. It's all about the total net result of mass production.

I do agree. I see 9 to be part of the revolution. After all they should be the leaders, exception, Daqo and LDK as I do not know personally how to place them. That does not mean they won't it is just me. I do not see anyone going in soon again (big business), and I think what did not kill companies,will make them a lot stronger. Stronger to be beyond the reach. I do not think money is the object for Chinese, not for those.

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Guest Klothilde   
Guest Klothilde

I believe that the new technology and conglomerat entry threats are sometimes overated. What these Chinese solar 11's are working on perfecting is to get a stable quality level output at low production cost, when run in mass production. Not reaching something in a lab. This difference is much bigger than many think. It's not just an IP portfolio that decides the winner, it's perfecting organization, manufacturing processes and technology and production platforms. It's all about the total net result of mass production.

I don't think that mass production itself is something that distinguishes the solar 9 from companies like Samsung and Foxconn. If anything it is Foxconn who has perfected the art of mass production and the ability to operate under razor thin margins.

The solar 9 have two cost disadvantages relative to a conglomerate like the ones mentioned who decides to invest heavily in solar: 1) They can be leapfrogged technologically by the conglomerate's massive investment in state-of-the-art production lines (technology is readily accessible either in-house or through 3rd party suppliers like Centrotherm or Manz) 2) The solar 9 have accumulated a huge debt burden which leaves them with higher interest expense and higher refinancing cost relative to the conglomerates.

Who agrees?

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dydo    1,425

The solar 9 have two cost disadvantages relative to a conglomerate like the ones mentioned who decides to invest heavily in solar: 1) They can be leapfrogged technologically by the conglomerate's massive investment in state-of-the-art production lines (technology is readily accessible either in-house or through 3rd party suppliers like Centrotherm or Manz) 2) The solar 9 have accumulated a huge debt burden which leaves them with higher interest expense and higher refinancing cost relative to the conglomerates.

If this is the case where are they now? When times were fine they were up there claiming big expansions. Nothing happened and they are sitting under the rock. I wrote an article about lower pricing being an instrument to eliminate competition. Many accused China of it. If this is the case clearly price has impact on those companies. The free cash flow, is an illusion for many highly divested companies, who need to worry about LED, washing machines and phone businesses they manage. Look at Sharp. On its knees, outsourcing to Taiwan, closing Japanese operations. In my opinion they do not have technological advancement advantage. I am not sure how any of those companies would take years of operational savvy from Yingli or Trina and overnight got ahead. Last blooming cycle did not show it. I also think that mass solution in technological advancement is highly dependable on Chinese demand. Specific solutions will be build with leaders and in-house developed technologies for mass production based on operational savvy. Lab made success by Samsung could not be transplanted into mass produced modules. Samsung modules were the most expensive to make along SolarWorld's and commended even higher prices on the market. Foxconn does not have a capacity, experience and relies on Chinese for build out (GCL). Let's tie this to Chinese policies on solar and available money. Do you think that Foxconn can work with GCL the same as Trina and CSIQ can? Money is not an issue for those 9 companies. I just do not see how it would be.

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explo    671
So I pointed out to the limitation of the wafer processing. All those improvements are about yield, purity leading to efficiency. Sorting is a mechanical process of finding efficient material, by measuring tools in automation or by hand using tools to recognize characteristics required to process it further. The percentage of quality wafers is less than total production.
odyd, I'm still trying to get my head around this sorting method for wafers and what it means. I basically only have your article (http://solarpvinvestor.com/spvi-news/388-technological-development-of-high-performance-polycrystalline-wafers) as reference. I need to understand this better for my analysis of Renesola's advantage. First of all sorting is some that is done in PV quality assurance and classification processes already, but I assume this is a different kind of sorting that help increase product performance, not just sort it out? From the sorting method descriptions, I've so far not seen that it does other things than sort wafers by their quality (typically the different bricks of a monocasted ingot will have different purity and consistency depending on how close to the core seed they are). The different wafer qualities give different cell conversion efficiencies when used in the same cell processing line. I can see how sorting cells by conversion efficiency allows you to broaden or narrow the power rating range of your modules, but that's a trivial fact. Maybe CTM loss is affected by cell power uniformity? What I'm wondering is if this wafer sorting technique increases the overall average power of the modules you make (e.g. moves your module power rating bell curve 5w to the right, by just sorting things better before module assembly)? As you probably know my SOL's case is now based on that they no longer plan do quasi-mono. They do standard multi wafer, with a new propietary process that give wafers, that with standard cell screen printing, on average gives 255w modules, compared to their average 235w poly module a year ago. The process has same great cost and yield properties and easy cell-making properties as normal standard multi wafers, but gives much higher quality wafers on a very consistent basis (lowest power rating is 250w). I don't see how sorting is involved in this (not that you said it was :) ). If they would simply discard all wafers that won't enable 250w+ then that must already be included in their all-in cost of 52 cents to make modules averaging 255w. So with HSOL, TSL and others that only get 240w average at an average cost of 58 cents, SOL would have a 12 cents gross margin advantage. First 6 cents because their cost is 6 cents lower (partially due to the higher conversion efficiency) and then another 6 cents because a 255w module is worth (at least) 6 cents more than a 240w module. Not to mention that the lower part of standard 225-250 ranges soon might have a hard time find any demand to talk about (amplifying discount needs). SOL or their customers can then add PERC and ESE or similar to make 275w modules instead. My point I guess is, as new module brands coming from those with superior wafer technology, like SOL, REC, GCL and LDK, gained by experience in making polysilicon, diamond wires, other consumables, ingot growth and slicing techniques and all with a focus on making the best quality wafers at lowest cost, they will have an 15w head start compared to module brands just taking standard GTAT solution to integrate upstream. Applying ESE and other well known cell techniques can then be taken in-house or outsourced. The 12 cent gross profit difference should make a significant competitive difference. If on top of that market price for polysilicon rises, this difference widens. I can probably see your hogwash point more with GCL, when they say "275w modules can be made with our wafers". It's likely that that applies only if you select the best pieces of wafers coming out of a monocasted ingot. SOL talks about having a narrow range (250-260w) with high average (255w) in mass production (1.8 GW) for the lowest cost process in the industry (continuous unseeded multi crystalline silicon ingot casting). What they've achieved is that despite the unseeded and continuous process to controll the growth in away that the grain sizes and orientations becomes optimal. With optimal grain structure you get basically the same efficiency effect as standard mono, where you have a single crystal (which is much much harder to grow). Standard multi, quasi-mono and standard (p-type) mono will all have a hard time competing with this next generation multi growth according to Renesola. That's why their whole casting capacity will focus on this, which is 90% of total ingot capacity, then they still have 10% for CZ. Note that I'm not excluding the role of cell processing here, but when making a cell, regardless of cell technology, it should be benefical to base it on a higher quality wafer made at a lower cost. I'm looking at this from a "rational wafer capacity" perspective and that it, during this shift, should be a positive to be on the rational side and a negative to be on the irrational side (and neutral to just be a flexible buyer, or in case locked to a partner positive to have a wafer partner with rational capacity).

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