GTAT exhibited its DSS 450 MonoCast at SNEC PV POWER EXPO 2012, which is claimed to be capable of producing mono-like ingots with mono’s conversion efficiency and multi’s cost. Given the weak market demand, it is difficult for manufacturers to completely change their equipment. However, GTAT’s MonoCast is able to upgrade GTAT’s polysilicon furnace to mono-like equipment, making MonoCast more appealing in the market.
Currently, multi is still the mainstream which is adopted in large power plants and commercial solar roof systems, while mono is mainly adopted in household solar roof systems due to its higher conversion efficiency. Mono-like silicon aims to acquire market share with higher conversion efficiency and lower cost. On the other hand, multi’s conversion efficiency continues to hike – certain cell makers are able to manufacture solar cells with a conversion efficiency of 17.2%, which is expected to be even higher by the year end and intensifies the competition with mono-like silicon. Although there seems to be a cap on multi’s conversion efficiency, due to mono-like’s market position and pattern restrictions, mono-like products will not become a threat to mono. With multi’ss climbing conversion efficiency and mature manufacturing process, if mono-like products can’t be more cost-competitive and improve their conversion efficiency, the growth momentum for them will be limited in the short run.
As for mono-like technology’s lukewarm market acceptance, GTAT indicated that it is due to not only the manufacturing cost concern but also the time it requires for a new technology to break into the market. It requires time for the consumers and manufacturers to see the advantages of mono-like technology. GTAT believes mono-like technology will become mainstream in the future, so the company gets a head start on providing the manufacturers with mono-like solutions, helping them achieve “larger ingot sizes, faster cycle times, higher mass ingot yields, and better quality.” The company helps its clients to strike a balance between cost and efficiency and to be more competitive.
GTAT believes that high-efficiency products will become the trend in the future, therefore, aside from multi, GTAT also puts much accent on mono-like silicon of higher efficiency and makes way into the mono market through acquisition. GTAT’s goal is to fulfill the needs of companies with different focuses, be it multi, mono-like silicon or mono. Currently, GTAT’s mono-like equipment can provide wafer to cell manufactures making cells with a efficiency of 19% through advanced manufacturing process. To continue reduce the manufacturing cost is still the shared goal between GTAT and its clients.
The main manufacturing base of the solar industry is expected to remain in China due to the fact that China supplies most of the global market demand. Even though areas such as the Middle East region and Indian show potential, affected by the oversupply and the highly competitive products by Chinese manufactured, the two areas’ development will be relatively slow. On the other hand, given that most manufacturers will not keep expanding their capacities, GTAT will focus on helping its existing clients upgrade their manufacturing equipment. Up to this point, GTAT has installed over 3,200 crystal growth furnace all around the world. On this basis, GTAT will assist the manufacturers to upgrade to mono-like crystal growth furnace without having to replace the old wafer equipment, which help reduce the cost to upgrade.
The solar subsidy reduction will inevitably affect the development of the supply end. The balance between cost and efficiency is definitely the first priority for the time being. Generally speaking, 1% efficiency increase can reduce the cost by 5%-6%. Thus, how to increase efficiency and in the meantime become more cost competitive is the pressing issue for the global solar industry.