Australian renewable energy company RTE Energy plans to build a factory for PV modules in Townsville, a city in the state of Queensland. The plan was unveiled by the city council of Townsville and first reported by local media outlets and other renewable energy news websites.
Both the company and the city council have not released a lot of specific details about this project. However, RTE did state that the factory will have an annual production capacity of 860MW for modules featuring the HJT cell technology from Hungary-based EcoSolifer.
HJT offers several advantages over other cell technologies. For instance, the manufacturing process for HJT cells is more streamlined and uses less energy. Specifically, the passivation effect that enhances the performance of HJT cells is achieved through the low-temperature deposition of a thin film of amorphous silicon. Moreover, HJT cells have a higher conversion efficiency rate and a higher double-sided ratio compared with PERC cells. In terms of development, the HJT cell technology has now entered the mass production phase, and its market growth is expected to continue over the next decade or so.
EcoSolifer’s 100MW module factory in Hungary adopts the processing equipment provided by Meyer Burger, which specializes in HJT. However, this equipment, which was ordered in 2015, did not come online until 2020. In fact, Meyer Burger suffered a loss in the transaction because of the long delay in equipment delivery and installation. The bifacial HJT cells that the factory in Hungary produces offer a conversion efficiency rate of 24.1%, though this result is still being verified by a third party.
RTE Energy said that both manufacturing of HJT cells and module assembly will take place in the proposed factory in Townsville. Furthermore, PV generation will account for a part of the electricity supply for the factory because RTE will also build a PV power plant next to the factory. According to the given development schedule, the construction of the factory will commence in 2022, and the factory will enter full production in March 2024. The construction of the nearby PV power plant will start in 2023.
According to an article published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation this September, there is currently just one operating PV module manufacturer in Australia – Tindo Solar. With the proposed factory, RTE will become a new domestic competitor. Tindo Solar has just set up a new factory in the city of Adelaide so as to raise its annual production capacity to 150MW and migrate its cell size to M10. There is the possibility that more Australian players will enter the global market for PV products in the future as the country continues to have huge demand for residential and utility-scale PV systems.
Website Mirage reported in early December that the state and federal governments are working to build an advanced industrial park in Townsville and providing the city with funds to improve its infrastructure. Named the Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct, the park is now expected to accommodate the facilities and offices of RTE Energy, Origin Energy, Solquartz, and North Queensland Gas Pipeline.