Backed by solid indigenous technological strength and the vigorous policy support of the government in recent years, many PV players in Taiwan have begun to step into module production, filling the vacuum of the local PV supply chain’s upstream and downstream segments and contributing to the maturity of the local industrial environment.
A major PV manufacturer in Taiwan that has recently stepped into this field is TSMMC, which is a joint venture between Motech Industries, a renowned PV-cell manufacturer, and Giga Solar Materials, a major conductive paste supplier with an experience in the development and operation of global PV power plants. With the industry’s competition heating up, TSMMC hopes to take advantage of Taiwan's technological strength to make "Taiwan's manufacturing industry great again."
As a veteran of the PV industry, TSMMC’s president, Chin-Yao Tsai, believes that it is very important to introduce the "technological property" concept to Taiwan's manufacturing industry, so as to amplify its technological edge and rid itself of price competition disadvantages. To achieve these goals, it would be very important to have technological differentiation for modules.
Creating double-glass PVB modules with high safety and reliability
In order to attain product differentiation, TSMMC has focused on double-glass PVB modules, as modules with good assembly technology is essential for the stable power output of high-efficiency PV cells given Taiwan's harsh environment, including high temperature, high humidity, high salinity, and frequent natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons. PVB is a layer of coating material for assembly, which can greatly enhance the safety of double-glass modules, due to the strong hydrogen bonding energy between glass and PVB , which prevents the breakdown of modules even in such harsh environments as waters, beach, and desert, assuring the safety and power-supply quality.
Tsai points out that TSMMC has managed to cut CTM loss to around 1% and boost yield rate to over 99% for double-glass PVB modules, thanks to the introduction of fully automated equipment and special assembly technology. Although PVB assembly material is more expensive than the traditional materials EVA and POE, the assembled high-efficiency modules do not cost much more than their traditional counterparts if evaluated as per watt. Consequently, some customers from Japan and the Middle East have been in talks with the company for the purchase of double-glass PVB modules.
With a 90% stake in TSMMC, Motech can supply its high-efficiency PV cells to the former directly. According to Tsai, Motech's standard PERC cells has an average conversion efficiency of around 21.4-21.5% and can be assembled into 310W modules. Its module wattage can reach even higher levels with the employment of PV cells with 21.8-21.9% efficiency. The maximum wattage stands at 318W now. Thanks to its excellent products, TSMMC has experienced positive gross margins starting from July, following the official deployment of its equipment in March and April and test runs in May.
An eye on the global markets
As a result of the world’s disruptive trade wars and government policies, EnergyTrend predicts that the global demands in 2018 will be slightly lower than 2017's 100GW. Tsai believes that the industry will undergo a shakeout amid a tumultuous market this year, which may not necessarily be a bad thing for the industry in the long run. Furthermore, while international oil prices are rising, the LCOE of PV power has been dropping. The overall outlook for the PV industry is expected to remain healthy, thanks to the continuously falling costs and environmentally friendly features.
Despite the existence of various constraints in Taiwan, Tsai is confident that manufacturers in the local PV industry will gradually solve their problems. According to Tsai, it will be important for them to cultivate experience and build up a track record on the local market before marching towards the global market in the long run.
About "Energy Taiwan"
Held by TAITRA and SEMI jointly, the "Energy Taiwan" fair will take place at Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center, Hall 1, during Sept. 19-21, in conjunction with the12th "PV Taiwan" exhibition, "Wind Energy Taiwan," "HFC Taiwan," and "Smart Storage Taiwan" exhibition. It is the largest exhibition platform for renewable-energy transactions in Taiwan, putting 160 exhibitors from 11 countries with over 500 booths under one roof. For more information, please access the official website at https://www.energytaiwan.com.tw/