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Tongwei Joins the 700W+ Club, Bringing New Changes to the Photovoltaic Competitive Landscape

published: 2024-05-10 17:57

Within a month, Tongwei Shares has successively released two new 210 modules, signifying that this photovoltaic giant has officially joined the 210 club. On April 26th, at the 2024 Distributed Partnership Conference and Industry Development Seminar held at Tongwei, the first TNC G12R-66 module based on the TOPcon technology route came off the production line at the Yancheng base of Tongwei Shares. Earlier, on April 22nd, the Hefei base of Tongwei announced the production of the TNC technology 210N (G12-66) high-efficiency module.

So far, the main track of 210+N modules has gathered several leading photovoltaic module manufacturers such as Trina Solar, Jinko Energy, JA Solar, and Tongwei Shares. In recent years, with the development and application of n-type high-efficiency cell technology (TOPCon, HJT, etc.) and 210 large-size silicon wafer technology, photovoltaic module products have entered the era of 700W+. In April this year, the 210+N modules once again achieved a breakthrough in photovoltaic conversion efficiency. Trina Solar's National Photovoltaic Science and Technology Laboratory announced that its self-developed 210+N type i-TOPCon photovoltaic modules, certified by the authoritative third-party testing and certification organization TÜV Süd, have achieved a maximum output power of 740.6W.

This marks the 26th time Trina Solar has set and broken world records in terms of module conversion efficiency and output power. Additionally, as an advocate of 210-sized modules, as of the first quarter of 2024, Trina Solar announced that the cumulative shipment of 210 modules has exceeded 12GW, continuing to maintain a global lead. Moreover, at the beginning of this year, the leading U.S. photovoltaic module manufacturer SEG Solar also launched the ALPINE N series modules, which also use TOPCon cells and 210mm silicon wafers, with a power of 700W and an efficiency of 22.53%. 

Leading Photovoltaic Manufacturers Embrace 210mm Technology

Recently, several leading photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturers have been continuously increasing their bets on 210 products. On April 25th, the second batch of photovoltaic module procurement for Guangdong Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. in 2024 was opened for bidding. The bidding documents showed that the module capacity was 118MW, with the model being 210N type dual-glass modules, requiring a power of over 690W, and the bid model was the 210N type dual-glass 700W. This bidding attracted participation from 9 photovoltaic module manufacturers, notably including GCL System Integration and Jinko Energy. This indicates that the technology for 210 modules from these two manufacturers has become increasingly mature. GCL System Integration has been an early investor in 210 modules. As early as March 2020, the company announced an investment of 18 billion yuan in the construction of a 60GW module and supporting project industrial base in Feidong County, Hefei City, focusing on the new 210mm module products to fill the future supply gap for large-size products.

Jinko Energy, once a staunch supporter of the 182-size, had also joined forces with LONGi Green Energy, JA Solar, and five other photovoltaic companies to establish the "M10 Alliance."

However, in June 2021, it disclosed in its prospectus that the company had already acquired the capability for pulling, squaring, and slicing silicon wafers of 210mm and above. In the 2021 annual report, Jinko Energy also stated that the company had completed the preparation of 210mm+ silicon wafers and cells. In addition to Jinko Energy, another member of the "M10 Alliance," JA Solar, has also gradually shifted towards the 210 size. At the All-Energy Australia exhibition held in October last year, it showcased the Tiger Neo N-type 620W high-efficiency module, which uses a 66-piece design, that is, it uses the 210R size rectangular cells. Moreover, insiders have revealed that JA Solar's 210N products are also in the pipeline.

The logic behind the industry leaders betting on 210 lies in the immense value that 210 modules bring to the industry. Four years ago, when the 210 product first emerged, the industry also questioned its technical maturity. However, four years have passed, and technically, 210 modules have become increasingly mature and have clear advantages. Through continuous evolution and iteration of 210 technology, currently, the thickness of 210 P-type silicon wafers has been reduced to 145μm, and the thickness of 210 N-type silicon wafers has been fully reduced to 130μm; the silicon consumption per watt of 210 silicon wafers has also been reduced to 2.5%-3.6%; the yield of 210 silicon wafers and cell cells has been greatly improved, and the component slicing defect rate is controlled within 0.03%. 

Against the backdrop of the increasingly mature and market-recognized 210 size technology, the value of standardization and unification of module sizes is also becoming more apparent.

In March 2023, Trina Solar, following the trend, first fully disclosed the 210R rectangular product solution and the path to industrial feasibility to the industry, advocating for the standardization of silicon wafer and cell component sizes. In July of the same year, Trina Solar, together with Canadian Solar, JA Solar, Jinko Energy, LONGi Green Energy, Tongwei Shares, a total of 9 photovoltaic module manufacturers, issued an "Initiative on the Standardization of Rectangular Silicon Wafer Module Sizes," reaching a consensus on the standard size of the new generation of rectangular silicon wafer modules at 238Xmm×1134mm.

The leading photovoltaic module manufacturers guiding the development of 210 will have two major impacts: on the one hand, it will achieve a high market concentration, and the market share of 210 modules will continue to expand; on the other hand, under the effect of the leaders, second- and third-tier manufacturers will also choose to follow, and it is inevitable that 210-sized modules will become the mainstream trend."

The Rise of n-type TOPCon Technology in the Photovoltaic Industry

The standardization trend for large, rectangular components is beneficial for the photovoltaic (PV) industry in two ways: it helps to foster a healthy competitive landscape and serves as the foundation for the iteration of photovoltaic technology routes. Currently, under the dual goals of "lower costs" and "higher efficiency," the traditional PERC technology can no longer meet market demands. New generation n-type solar cell technologies, including TOPCon, HJT, and perovskite, have shown vigorous vitality.

Among the n-type technology routes, TOPCon technology has gradually emerged from various technology routes due to its better compatibility with PERC production lines, higher commercial feasibility, and lower electricity cost, and is becoming the mainstream technology route in the photovoltaic industry. Especially since 2023, n-type technology manufacturers have continuously promoted cost reduction, making component prices increasingly competitive, and the competitive advantage of TOPCon has been further highlighted. Taking the TOPCon 182 bifacial module as an example, its price has dropped from nearly 2 yuan/W at the beginning of the year to 1.03 yuan/W, with the price difference from the same size double-glass PERC module narrowing to 0.05 yuan/W, but with higher conversion efficiency.

According to the China Photovoltaic Industry Association, the average conversion efficiency of TOPCon batteries in 2023 has reached 25.0%, which is much higher than the 23.4% of PERC. Higher conversion efficiency and almost the same price cost mean that customers choosing TOPCon can obtain higher returns in photovoltaic power station investments. Last August, Jinko Energy stated that the company had conducted a comparative study on a 70MW photovoltaic power station project delivered in the northwest region, and the empirical data showed that the average power generation gain of n-type TOPCon modules was 5.02% higher than that of p-type PERC modules. According to statistics from the China Photovoltaic Industry Association, in 2023, the market share of n-type batteries has reached 25.6%. Entering 2024, the squeeze of n-type products on p-type products is further intensifying.

It is worth mentioning that companies that bet on TOPCon capacity earlier have enjoyed the dividends of technology. Jinko Energy, with its first-mover advantage in TOPCon, achieved a component shipment of nearly 80GW in 2023, a 100% increase from 2022, and regained the title of the industry's component champion.

Similarly, Trina Solar, which laid out the TOPCon route earlier, has been continuously innovating in technology, constantly raising the power of modules to new heights and setting multiple world records. As early as 2015, Trina Solar began to focus on n-type technology reserves and promoted the industrialization of TOPCon technology. Over the past decade, Trina Solar has been firmly cultivating the TOPCon technology route, maintaining control over "technical details," and continuously iterating and upgrading new technologies, thereby achieving continuous efficiency and power improvements. During the SNEC in 2023, Trina Solar released the new generation of n-type i-TOCon advanced technology. On August 18 of the same year, Trina Solar announced that its supreme n-type 700W module has been put into mass production, becoming the first photovoltaic component manufacturer in the industry to achieve a breakthrough in the mass production power of TOPCon components exceeding 700W. In April of this year, Trina Solar announced that its independently developed 210+ n-type i-TOPCon photovoltaic modules have achieved the highest output power of 740.6W, setting a new world record.

Pioneering the 700W+ Era: A New Frontier in Photovoltaic Technology

The photovoltaic (PV) industry has collectively worked for over three years to achieve the leap from 500W+ to 600W+ and then to 700W+. On August 18, 2023, the same day Trina Solar announced the mass production of its premium n-type 700W modules, it also officially released an initiative titled "Promoting the Industry's Continuous and Healthy Development and Steadily Advancing into the 700W+ Era," leading the photovoltaic industry to open the door to the 700W+ era. In recent years, as a leading company in the photovoltaic industry chain, Trina Solar has been committed to promoting the continuous upgrade of modules towards higher power. As early as February 2020, Trina Solar launched the Veris series of ultra-high-power modules for the global market. The Veris series, based on 210mm large-size silicon wafers and PERC monocrystalline cells, was the first to break through the 500W power output of modules. In July of the same year, Trina Solar released the 600W+ Veris modules, ushering the photovoltaic industry into the 600W era. In 2022, it once again launched the 210R modules, breaking through the 600W ceiling of the medium-sized module format. And in August 2023, with the gradual maturity of the TOPCon battery technology, Trina Solar superimposed the N-type TOPCon technology on the 210-size basis, achieving a power output of 700W. Leading the way in the development of high-power modules, Trina Solar has always maintained an open attitude and placed great emphasis on the construction of the ecosystem.

As photovoltaic modules enter the 700W+ era, Trina Solar has once again advocated and taken the lead in establishing the 700W+ industry alliance. After the release of "Jointly Promoting the Industry's Continuous and Healthy Development and Steadily Advancing into the 700W+ Era," on December 11 of the same year, Trina Solar, in conjunction with Canadian Solar, Oriental Daybreak, TCL Zhonghuan, Tongwei Shares, and Chint New Energy, jointly released the "Joint Initiative on Promoting the Standard Design and Application of 700W+ Photovoltaic Modules," which stipulates the external dimensions and the long-side installation hole spacing of 700W+ photovoltaic modules. On December 15, 2023, at the annual photovoltaic industry conference, Trina Solar, along with Canadian Solar, Oriental Daybreak, TCL Zhonghuan, Tongwei Shares, and Chint New Energy, a total of six companies, jointly launched the 700W+ Photovoltaic Open Innovation Ecological Alliance for navigation and upgrading. At the same time, Trina Solar also signed strategic cooperation agreements with multiple ecological partners in the industry chain to deeply carry out supply chain cooperation in the 700W+ era. The photovoltaic industry is currently entering a period of capacity adjustment. The industry is not only calling for cost reduction but also seeking further high-quality development. Actively building an industry chain ecosystem can truly bring real value to the stable development of the industry.

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