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Profits to rise for high-efficiency cell producers

published: 2014-09-26 9:46

Although supply and demand are fluctuating heavily in the global solar market, the market’s preference for high-efficiency products has remained consistent, with Taiwan manufacturers leading the way, according to EnergyTrend, a subsidiary of the Taiwan-based market intelligence firm TrendForce. Sunrise Global Solar Energy, which is now a subsidiary of Sino-American Silicon Products, is the market’s pioneer in applying PERC (Passivated Emitter Rear Cell) technology in the solar cell production process. Other firms using the technology include Motech, Gintech Energy and Neo Solar Power. “PERC offers better efficiency at a competitive cost, which is causing demand for the technology to surge,” said Jason Huang, a research manager at EnergyTrend.

The improved solar cell technology means the wattage of a single module is increased while the cost of each unit is decreased. That brings down the overall production cost considerably and makes high-efficiency products especially attractive to system developers. However, PERC performance varies. In polysilicon cells, PERC increases efficiency 0.6%, but in monosilicon cells 0.8% to 1%. “Monosilicon cells see the greatest gains from PERC technology,” said Huang. “That’s why Taiwan vendors will focus on expanding monosilicon cell production capacity in the second half of the year.”

Taiwan solar cell manufacturers currently are utilizing PERC technology more than of any of their competitors aand have about 1 GW of PERC production capacity. Two firms in the China market to watch are JA Solar, which is developing faster than any of its competitors and Canadian Solar, which aims to implement PERC technology in its production process soon. Monosilicon modules made with PERC technology have a power output of more than 280W and since there very few are manufactured in China, the prices for solar cells within this power efficiency range are different than standard monosilicon modules. Currently, demand from Japan is strongest. Once demand picks up in other markets, profits will rise for Taiwan cell manufacturers.

Among cell manufacturers, PERC technology is viewed as the best way to increase efficiency, because the equipment used in production and the process itself do not differ greatly from traditional methods. Manufacturers can use PERC to reduce capital expenditure while boosting efficiency. PERC application in the future will also influence the usage of monsilicon and polysilicon wafers. Currently China’s top monosilicon and polysilicon wafer producers are Longi Silicon and Zhonghuan Huanou. The top Taiwanese producer is AUO Crystal.

This week’s price quotes

Prices for October should be set to continue rising as demand for high-efficiency cells increases. Yet as China will take a week-long national holiday beginning October 1, prices in the past week have not changed much. The average price for polysilicon is US$20.34/kg. The low-priced wafers are up and stable since the end of September. High efficiency and standard polysilicon wafer prices are the same as last week. As for cell prices, low-priced products have decreased slightly. By contrast, module prices have risen continuously for two weeks, increasing 0.52% to US$0.575/watt as producers take turns boosting average prices.

(Photo Credit: Pixabay )

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