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Customs Export Analysis: Module Technology Application Status

PERC + SE have become the standard equipped technology for mono cell production lines since 2019, with a 0.2% increase in conversion efficiency. However, it’s more difficult to push up the cell efficiency once reaching 22%. Meanwhile, the cost remains high for the high-efficiency N-type technology, and thus many manufacturers chose to increase module power output through the implementation of module technologies.

In terms of shipment, 2018 was the year for module technology development began to flourish. There were many outstanding performances for module technology applications from the “Top Runner Program” in China. For the overseas, we can see that the overseas market has higher acceptance toward module technologies according to China’s customs export data. PV InfoLink will go over the changes and current status of special module (modules with module technologies) applications through China’s module export data.

Significant Increase in Special Module Export

Compared to a monthly export volume around 100MW in early-2018, China’s special module (module with module technologies) export has increased substantially starting from 2H18. The monthly proportion of special modules in the total export increased from 2-5% in early-2018 to over 5%. Special module export even reached more than 400MW in October and November, respectively; and the export represented over 10% in the total export per month too. China’s cumulative special module export has surpassed 2GW by November.

Export and Share of Special Modules in 2018

Higher Market Acceptance and an Increasing Number of Exporters

There were only a few markets that are more open to new products and technologies in early-2018 including Australia and Brazil, but now the number of markets has increased slowly. Australia, Japan, Spain, the UAE, and Brazil are the major export destination countries for Chinese special modules. This shows the overseas markets’ higher acceptance toward module technologies like the half-cut and shingled. The number of export countries will increase significantly in 2H18.

Major Export Markets for Chinese Special Modules in 2018

Export Region Distribution for Chinese Special Modules in 2018

For export manufacturers, in 1Q18, only Canadian Solar had exported the half-cut modules as they put more time in the half-cut R&D. In Q2, we could see more manufacturers like Jinko, Trina, DZS Solar, and Suntech join the competition for special modules market.

Major Export Manufacturers for Chinese Special Modules in 2018

*Source: PV InfoLink’s customs export data

**MBB export data not listed in the report due to the incompleteness

For the types of export product, most of the major suppliers’ special modules went with the half-cut technology, of which, Suntech, JA Solar, and Risen Energy applied more mono PERC cells with half-cut technology. The rest applied more half-cut with multi-Si cell. For the shingled technology, DZS Solar and Seraphim had more shingled module export, of which, DZS Solar’s shingled module export were all applied with mono PERC cells.

Major Product Distribution of Chinese Special Modules in 2018

*Source: PV InfoLink’s customs export data

**MBB export data not listed in the report due to the incompleteness

企业导入组件技术的时程影响各产品出口比重

Since Canadian Solar was the representative of the half-cut technology in 1H18, the half-cut technology was mostly applied in multi cell production lines in 1Q18, with some applied in mono PERC cell production lines. According to the export data, multi half-cut module took up 60-70% of the total special module export per month in 2H18 and mono PERC half-cut module represented 10-20% of the total export. The half-cut technology has an advantage which allows multi cell to basically get the same power output as conventional mono module after going through the slice and string processes. The current mainstream efficiency for multi half-cut modules reached 335-345W for 72-cell and 280-285W for 60-cell modules.

The shingled technology is mostly applied in high-efficiency mono PERC cell production lines. Compared to the half-cut technology, the shingled technology is more like icing on the cake for high-efficiency cells, pushing up 1 to 2 levels for high-efficiency module power output and widening the wattage gap with conventional modules. The current mainstream efficiency for mono PERC shingled module reached 385-395W for 72-cell and 310-320W for 60-cell modules. However, the maturity and yield rate for the shingled module are not as high as the half-cut. The market also has doubts on shingled module’s patent issues. Many manufacturers still mainly ship shingled modules to China. Aside from the increasing amount of export in May and June, shingled module takes up about 10% of the total special module export per month.

Product Technology Ratio for Special Module Export in 2018

*Source: PV InfoLink’s customs export data

**MBB export data not listed in the report due to the incompleteness

Conclusion

The half-cut is a relatively mature technology in terms of equipment, yield rate, and actual production. We’ve seen the continuously increasing production for the half-cut in 2018. According to PV InfoLink’s database, the half-cut capacity will expand 20GW in 2019. The half-cut module shipment will account for 15% of the world’s module shipment, becoming one of the mainstream products.

SunPower and DZS Solar were still the main suppliers for shingled modules in 2018. Judging from the current phase, it still takes time for the shingle technology to mature and it also takes time to observe the technology’s long-term reliability. Moreover, patent is still an issue that cannot be ignored. Patent can be a major limitation for shingled module to search for overseas export markets, but manufacturers can still start with their own projects, the “Top Runner Program” or other demonstration projects using shingled module within China domestic market. Therefore, Tongwei and Longi are planning to expand shingled module capacity. It’s projected that China’s shingled module shipment will increase from 900MW in 2018 to 3.5GW in 2019.

For multi busbar (MBB), since the technology still needs improvement in terms of equipment and yield rate, the actual capacity and production were slightly lower than others technologies in 2018.more and more manufacturers have started to put the half-cut technology with the MBB for development, it appears this year that half-cut+MBB capacity expansion will represent the most in 2019-2020.

Capacity Forecast of Module Technology.jpg

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