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Views on the Current New PV Technology: Competition Between TOPCon and HJT

published: 2023-07-20 17:33

PV products are fundamentally investment products, and any discussion about PV technology without considering the cost is meaningless, akin to building castles in the air. The decision to introduce a new technology into mass production hinges on two core driving factors: the internal rate of return (IRR) of downstream customers and the investment recovery of manufacturing enterprises’ equipment.

Using TOPCon as an example: Currently, with its premium pricing, the customer IRR for TOPCon is higher than for PERC modules. Additionally, the profit per watt for TOPCon modules ranges from 1.3 to 1.4 cents, while the equipment investment pays back in approximately one year. As a result, companies are significantly increasing their TOPCon production capacity. Related technologies have become mainstream, and the equipment investment payback period is determined by the investment in equipment and the unit watt profitability of the product (which depends on product premium and cost increase). Therefore, it is concluded that there is no competition between TOPCon and HJT cells.

The premium of TOPCon modules exceeds 1 cent, primarily because of the limited supply and higher production costs of HJT modules. Most customers for HJT modules come from the overseas high-end market, where they are willing to accept higher prices. While HJT modules may appear to have higher prices compared to TOPCon modules, the truth is that HJT's cost structure does not allow for price declines, resulting in it being positioned in the niche market.

When it comes to efficiency improvement, the difference between HJT and TOPCon modules is marginal, and TOPCon’s industrialization progress is faster. However, if HJT can achieve mass production, the premium of TOPCon will likely depend on their efficiency difference and the unit watt of power generation gain.

Currently, the efficiency of all-silver HJT modules is slightly higher than that of TOPCon, while the efficiency of silver-coated copper and 0bb plan HJT modules is comparable to TOPCon. Looking ahead to 2024, the efficiency of TOPCon modules equipped with bifacial POLY will exceed 26%, and even if HJT adopts plating technology, the efficiency of both HJT and TOPCon modules will remain at a similar level. As a result, it becomes challenging for HJT to enjoy a premium based solely on efficiency advantages. However, HJT does perform better in terms of temperature coefficient and linear attenuation, which are factors influencing power generation per unit watt. This is expected to allow HJT to enjoy a premium of 3 to 4 cents.

TOPCon technology leads in equipment payback period and boasts significant advantages in product value. By the end of 2023, if the 0bb and silver-coated copper technology are implemented in HJT production, its unit watt cost will only be about 4 cents higher than that of TOPCon, while maintaining equal efficiency. Assuming a selling price increase of 4 cents (due to the increased power generation gain per unit watt), the estimated payback period for HJT equipment is 2.5 years, compared to 1.2 years for TOPCon. By the end of 2024, with the implementation of 0bb and silver-coated copper technology in HJT cells, and TOPCon equipped with bifacial POLY and 0bb technology, the cost of unit watt for HJT is still expected to be 2 to 3 cents higher than that of TOPCon, resulting in a payback period of 4 years for HJT and 2 years for TOPCon.

In comparison to the previous year, HJT’s costs have significantly decreased, and plating technology is gaining momentum with its great flexibility. Though HJT may still lag behind TOPCon in terms of value, the cost has been significantly reduced after adopting 0bb and plating or silver-clad copper processes compared to all-silver HJT. It is recommended to continue exploring other approaches for cost reduction. While copper plating technology is still in its infancy and faces challenges like high equipment investment costs, complex processes, and environmental concerns, it has been successfully applied to BC batteries, indicating great potential for the early-stage mass production of HJT.

TOPCon is currently undergoing a period of rapid technology upgrade, and we remain optimistic about the products of leading enterprises, particularly focusing on 0bb, bifacial POLY, and other industrial developments. Though the market speculates that TOPCon will face homogeneous competition in 2024 and its profitability may decline, we believe that TOPCon is far from reaching the “PERC-like” stage and still has ample room for long-term technological advancements. JinkoSolar expects to introduce bifacial POLY and 0bb technology on a large scale in 2024, which should result in improved efficiency and establish its product as a leader in the industry.

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