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Export analysis: Strong Europe demand in H1 2019 drives up high-efficiency module exports

States of overall demand

PV InfoLink analyzed the key markets of China’s module manufacturers, as well as product trends based on statistics on China’s module exports.According to trade figures, China’s module exports totaled 34.2 GW in H1 2019, growing by over 90% compared to the corresponding period of 2018, in a nutshell, overseas demand in 2019 in strong.

China module export volume

As of H1 2019, Jinko, JA Solar, Trina, Canadian Solar, and Risen maintained their positions as the top five module manufacturers, dominating 50% of total exports. There have been steady exports for Jinko and JA Solar, with exports of the former having reached 5.1 GW and the latter 3.4 GW this year. Trina, which had been in the doldrums last year, has moved up one position this year with 3.1 MW of module exports in H1. Risen and Canadian Solar have together contributed more than 3 GW of export volume, with each having exported 2.7 GW of modules in the first six months of the year. It’s worth noting that Longi has strengthened foothold in overseas markets, where its market share increased 3% from 2018. As demonstrated in PV InfoLink’s customs data report, Longi once made the top five module makers until this April on the back of high export volumes to Europe and emerging markets.

Top 10 China module export manufacturers

European market recovery: demand surpassing Asia Pacific

Listed in order of export volumes, China’s top 10 export destinations from January to June 2019 were the Netherlands, Vietnam, Japan, India, Australia, Spain, Ukraine, Mexico, Brazil, and Germany. China had exported 4.6 GW of modules to the Netherlands, a key distribution location where most modules were then delivered to countries across Europe. Over the first six months of the year, China had exported 4 GW of modules to Vietnam, 2.9 GW to Japan, 2.8 GW to India, and 2.5 GW to Australia, as well as over 1 GW of exports to Spain, Ukraine, Mexico, Brazil, and Germany, respectively.   

China module export market

With the minimum import prices (MIP) for Chinese solar imports came to an end, as well as supportive policies implemented in Spain, Ukraine, Germany, and Portugal, demand has grown significantly. Chinese module exports to Europe reached 11.7 GW in the first half of the year (Under the MIP framework, export volume stood at only 1.5 GW in the same period last year). Since May, China’s monthly export to Europe has surpassed that to Asia Pacific region, and by the end of June, Europe has occupied 34.1% of total exports.  

China module export volume and proportion

Increased mono PERC exports: mono-Si overtaking multi-Si

Driven by European demand for high-efficiency modules, mono-Si exports have steadily gaining more share, with export volumes of mono PERC having exceeded conventional multi-Si modules since May. 

China module export proportion of mono and multi-Si

Although conventional multi-Si module made up higher percentage of Chinese module exports in H1 2019 with 47.3%, this figure showed a noticeable drop compared to last year’s 71.1%. In terms of mainstream product, 72-cell, 330/ 335/ 325/ 340W conventional multi-Si half-cut modules and 60-cell, 275W ones, as well as 72-cell, 370/ 375/ 380W and 60-cell, 310W mono PERC modules were the most well-received modules. As half-cut technology becomes commonplace and wafer becomes bigger, it is expected that the mainstream power output of mono PERC modules will reach 380/ 315W.

China's module exports product category

Module technologies are booming; bifacial module exports remain low

The adoption of diverse module technologies has expanded the geographic reach of special modules. Exports of special modules stood roughly at 6.6 GW in the first half, representing 19% of total exports. At present, half-cut technique remains the most widely adopted technology, with 50% of half-cut modules utilized mono PERC cells. As for shingled modules, most of which assembled mono PERC cells.

Since the beginning of this year, exports of half-cut modules with MBB design has increased; most of which are multi PERC modules shipped by Canadian Solar. The market also saw growing adoption of added-cell modules, which improve power output by assembling more solar cells. So far, Longi is the largest supplier of such modules, followed by Suntech, Trina, and Jolywood, which exported small volumes.  

China's exports product category of special module

China remains the biggest market for the highly-discussed bifacial module. So far, demand comes from some certain regions, and export volumes are low, with only few manufacturers dominating the share. In 1H 2019, Longi was the largest supplier of bifacial modules, having exported 306 MW to Mexico and Egypt. Jinko mainly supplied bifacial modules to El Salvador, whereas JA Solar fulfilled demand from Japan, the Middle East, Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America.

China bi-facial module export volume and market

Conclusion

Having experienced strong overseas demand throughout the first six months of the year, the market saw demand weakening starting July following Vietnam and Australia markets cooled down, and the slowdown will continue until anticipated demand picks up at the end of September, or the beginning of Q4. As Chinese demand is expected to rise in Q4, manufacturers will reduce production capacity allocated to orders from overseas markets. That also indicates overall demand in overseas market has slowed down from H1. PV InfoLink projected that global module demand will hit 120 GW this year, with overseas markets accounting for 72% of total demand. European demand, which has been strong this year, is expected to surpass 20 GW.

2019 Global module demand forecast

The significant improvement in cell efficiency and yield rates made half-cut technique equipped as standard in new production lines. Manufacturing capacity that can accommodate half-cut and MBB techniques has also increased noticeably this year. With several leading companies due to complete technological upgrades by the end of the year, production of traditional full-cell modules will be decreasing from 2020. 

In addition to the module technologies discussed above, high-density modules have been in the spotlight recently. PV InfoLink has learned that some manufacturers have started gearing up or expanding capacity for superposition welding and paving – two techniques that are different from shingled with conductive adhesive. Moreover, patent rights of shingled technology obtained by SunPower in China may accelerate manufacturers’ R&D efforts in high-density modules. Although investing in superposition welding, narrowed-spacing, and paving techniques require less costs and entail no patent issues or the use of conductive adhesive, they are still in the initial stage of development, which takes time to mature and develop a clearer roadmap. If these technologies are developed smoothly, they may start cannibalizing market share of shingled modules from 2021. 

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