At the SNEC expo in Shanghai, the N-type products saw significantly more exposure than they did in the previous years. Some of the highlights were Tongwei’s 435W shingled bifacial heterojunction modules, as well as JA Solar and Trina’s back-contact modules. These highlights showed that top-tier and new-in manufacturers have begun focusing on the N-type products due to unclear technical roadmap for the next generation after PERC.
Despite the currently unclear mainstream technical roadmap of the N-type, the HJT still showed apparent signs of catching up on the other segments at the expo. Pioneers of the HJT, such as Hanergy, CIE-Power（China Intellectric Power Technology Co.,Ltd.）, GS-Solar, and Jinerngy, which already have the ability of mass production have come up with clear plans for capacity expansion. Other manufacturers like Tongwei, CaiHong Group, and Akcome are all planning for entrance to the HJT segment.
PV InfoLink had an exclusive interview with Folungwin（Folungwin Automatic Equipment Co., Ltd）, the pioneer in HJT furnaces and screen printing equipment. With the guidance of Mr. Lo, Vice President of Bussiness of Folungwin, we witnessed Folungwin’s progress in research and development in recent years, and discussed the current situation and future market advancements in the HJT segment.
Committed to PV equipment development; pioneer of the HJT segment
Folungwin excels at the development and manufacture of PV automatic equipment. Its scope of services includes loading machine, screen printer, drying furnace, firing furnace, IV-tester and sorter, LID furnace, and so forth, covering most equipment needed in the backend parts of cell production. In addition to its factory in Dongguan, a factory dedicated to furnace production was established in Suzhou in July, 2017.
Apart from its longtime development in solar cell equipment, Folungwin is also the earliest manufacturer in China to invest in the development and production of HJT screen printer and sintering furnace equipment. One of the manufacturers producing with Folungwin’s devices is ENN Group, the first Chinese company to have HJT capacity. With more partnership experiences with other manufacturers interested in the HJT market, Folungwin continued to improve its equipment research and development as well as production techniques.
Largely increased capacity thanks to furnace improvement
With continuing revolution, Folungwin’s latest HJT screen printing station features a new “standing” design replacing the former “Batch”,“Conveyor” or “Belt” drying and firing methods. This allows more cells to be dried at the same time, resulting in higher capacity per unit than that of conventional stations. For Folungwin’s drying and firing furnaces, the capacity per hour is at 1,600 pieces; and currently the furnaces with capacity over 2,000 pieces per hour are under developing in order to meet the demand for greater capacity. In addition, the standing model also allows the entire production procedure in better heat distribution while maintaining at low temperatures (HJT is relatively low at 200ºC compared to the 800ºC of P-type), leading a greater efficiency for cells. A number of new manufacturers that are interested in HJT and some manufactueres who has mass production capacities seen the advantages of Folungwin’s equipments and have become in contact with Folungwin for partnership opportunities.
Drying furnace with standing design (source: Folungwin)
HJT highly anticipated to become the next mainstream technology; PERC still holds advantage
In comparison with P-type cells, HJT cells not only have higher conversion rates (up to 23% or above), but also offer six other benefits: (1) shorter production process—only four stages in the production line; (2) low temperature process—less than 220 ºC, without high-temperature electrode sintering; (3) stable electricity generation—almost without PID and LID issues (4) lower temperature coefficient—less decrease in power when the module is under high-temperature sunlight, leading to relatively higher power generation; (5) highly suitable for thinning thanks to the natural structure; (6) double-sided generation compatible.
Comparing HJT to other N-type technologies, PERT is the easiest for mass production, but it is lower in conversion rates—similar to P-PERC in front-side efficiency. HJT, however, can reach 23%. IBC is the best in terms of efficiency, but comes with the highest costs. Technically speaking, it is also the most difficult. Considering these factors, HJT is highly likely to become the next mainstream technology.
To conclude, HJT cells offer an abundance of benefits, but there are still quite a few challenges ahead of it for mass production. Some of the challenges include: high costs of equipment production resulting in currently high reliance of overseas equipment; high costs of low-temperature silver paste, wafers, and other elements; high production difficulties which can lead to issues like incomplete busbar printing caused by high-viscosity silver paste.
An increasing number of cell and module manufacturers have begun investing in the HJT segment and partnering with other Chinese equipment and material suppliers, boosting the development of localizing the productions of equipment, paste, and other materials in order to lower the cost. However, judging from current situation, P-type products can still increase in efficiency and keeps a relatively advantageous c/p ratio even without further technical breakthrough thanks to the optimizations of module technologies, paste, and wafers, as well as various auxiliary materials like white EVA, and LCR (Light Capture Ribbon) . This helps P-type products to maintain their market share. Further, in the last two years, most manufacturers have expanded their PERC capacities, making it difficult to spare focus and capital for other technologies. As a result, HJT and other N-type technologies are still considered secondary options.
Focusing on high-efficiency markets
According to PV InfoLink, China currently has 1GW of HJT capacity, which is expected to grow to 3GW by the end of this year, and 5 to 6GW by 2020, when HJT replaces PERT as the mainstream N-type technology. However, judging by the supply and demand of the entire market after the 0531 new policy announcement by China government, a dramatic price downturn is expected in the wafer-to-module supply chain in Q3 this year. In that time, P-type PERC products which have “low-price”, “high-efficiency “, and with some module materials as well will become the mainstream. Further, in this Q4, 300W mono-Si PERC modules (60-cells) can fall to RMB 2.3/W, or lower than US$ 0.31/W. The race between the cost-down rate of HJT and the price decrease of mainstream products plays a crucial role in the future.
However, for rooftop markets and users with higher demand for efficiency and power generation in limited installation areas, the high efficiency and high stability of HJT still have great advantages. As a result, developed markets, where rooftop systems are primary products, are a major stepping stone for HJT products to gain place in the industry.
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