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2024 PV Technology Forecast: Focusing on Breakthroughs Over Competition; Rectangle Wafers Contribute to Efficiency Gains and 210R Standardized Module Sizes

published: 2023-12-13 16:35

Technological upgrades and innovations stand as pivotal driving forces in propelling the development of the PV industry. Presently, we witness the emergence of cutting-edge PV technologies, with advancements evident across all segments of the industrial chain. The entire spectrum of technical routes has shifted towards higher efficiency and lower costs, showcasing the robust R&D capabilities and product supply prowess of domestic PV enterprises. These companies have repeatedly set global records in pioneering new technologies, consistently leading the charge in technological breakthroughs and outstanding performance.

Looking ahead to 2024, the polysilicon sector is still in a phase of collective production capacity expansion, resulting in a supply that outstrips demand. Post-clearance of outdated, high-cost production capacities, the polysilicon price is expected to stabilize. In the realm of wafers, there's a swift anticipation of N-type wafers capturing a market share of 66.1%, while manufacturers of rectangle wafers engage in fierce competition to enhance efficiency before introducing their standardized sizes to the downstream market.

In the domain of cells, N-type production capacity is forecasted to reach 1035GW in 2024, with a market share surging to 67%. The predominant technical routes for N-type cells are poised to be dominated by TOPCon. Moving to modules, the market share of N-type modules is expected to experience rapid growth, reaching 68.93% in 2024, a substantial leap from 26.22% in 2023. Notably, 210R and 19XR wafers are positioned to potentially become the fresh mainstream rectangle wafer choices.  

Polysilicon: Surge in Demand for High-Quality N-type Polysilicon

Polysilicon serves as the cornerstone of the upstream industrial chain. Looking ahead, in the next two to three years, we anticipate an overcapacity issue in polysilicon production, particularly with an exacerbated surplus of P-type polysilicon. However, the real spotlight is on the escalating demand for high-quality N-type polysilicon as the industry undergoes a shift from P-type to N-type polysilicon.

TrendForce data predicts a continuous uptick in the adoption rate of N-type polysilicon in 2024, reaching a noteworthy 58%. The pricing dynamics of N-type polysilicon hinge on the pace at which high-quality N-type polysilicon enters the market and the concurrent increase in its adoption rate. Currently, the output of N-type polysilicon supports module production within the range of 377-536GW. The supply and demand for N-type polysilicon are delicately balanced due to the swift surge in demand for high-quality N-type polysilicon.

Trends of N-type Global Polysilicon Production Capacity from 2023 to 2027 Unit: 10K tons

Given the high teTrnchnological barriers in the polysilicon domain, leading polysilicon enterprises are poised to reap premium rewards. Their advantages in cost control and a higher market share of N-type polysilicon, especially as P-type polysilicon undergoes iterative shifts to N-type, position them at the forefront of the evolving market landscape.

Wafer: Transformative Shifts Towards N-Type, Larger, rectangle, and Thinner Wafers

The landscape of wafers is undergoing a remarkable evolution, embracing characteristics such as N-type technology, larger dimensions, a rectangle shape, and a thinner profile. As photovoltaic (PV) solar technologies advance and enhance, wafers are growing in size, becoming more efficient, and aligning with the industry's trend of cost reduction and efficiency improvement through the adoption of rectangle and thinner wafer designs. Furthermore, as downstream N-type cells gain a larger market share, the trajectory of N-type wafers is poised for accelerated growth. According to TrendForce statistics, the years 2023 and 2024 mark a pivotal window for the shift from P-type to N-type wafers. Projections indicate that the market share of N-type wafers is set to soar to 66.1%, reflecting a substantial year-on-year increase of 35.5%. This surge underscores the industry's dynamic response to evolving solar technologies, emphasizing the growing prominence of N-type wafers in the market.

Forecasts on the Global Market Share of Different Wafer Types from 2021 to 2026 Unit: %

In recent years, we've witnessed a significant uptick in wafer processes. Coupled with the introduction of larger-sized wafers and new technologies, the market's appetite for these larger wafers is growing rapidly. Projections indicate that by 2024, their market share will soar to 97.12%, with 210mm wafers claiming a substantial 46.46% share. The advent of rectangle wafers has effectively overcome the efficiency constraints of 182mm wafers. Consequently, the 210mm wafer has emerged as the focal point for manufacturers striving to achieve breakthroughs in module efficiency, and they are gearing up to introduce it to the market expeditiously.

However, the proliferation of rectangle wafer sizes has created a state of disorder, limiting the supportive infrastructure for both downstream and upstream supply chains. In response, leading manufacturers have come to a consensus on standardizing the sizes of mid-tier modules designed for rectangle wafers. Simultaneously, upon reviewing module information, it's evident that numerous major module manufacturers are swiftly rolling out their rectangle module products, with a primary focus on two versions: 19XR and 210R. The latter, with its distinct advantages, has emerged as the predominant size in the market.

Forecasts on the Global Market Share of Different Rectangle Wafers from 2021 to 2026 Unit: %

As the transition from P-type to N-type technology unfolds, new challenges and opportunities surface. Downstream customers are becoming more discerning in their preference for N-type wafers, prompting manufacturers to upgrade their processes and equipment. The accelerating thinning of wafers presents heightened demands on the machinery used for cutting materials. Furthermore, the demand for tungsten diamond wire, a novel material, is expected to rise significantly due to its compatibility with thinner N-type wafers. This surge in demand will catalyze advancements in key materials, creating fresh opportunities in the realm of key auxiliary materials.

Cell: TOPCon Technology Set to Sustain Market Dominance in the Next Three to Four Years

As projected by TrendForce, the evolving preferences of customers are gradually phasing out a significant portion of P-type production capacity. With N-type production capacity coming online at an accelerated pace, it is anticipated to reach 1035GW by 2024, constituting 67% of the market. Specifically, the production capacity of TOPCon cells is forecasted to reach 877GW, and we predict that over the next three to four years, TOPCon will maintain its stronghold in N-type cell technologies. Meanwhile, alternative technical routes like HJT and XBC are advancing swiftly, though their cells have yet to enter mass production due to constraints such as cost and other factors.

Trends of N-type Global Cells Production Capacity from 2023 to 2027 Unit: GW

In the realm of TOPCon cells, numerous manufacturers have already expanded their production capacity since 2023, gearing up for large-scale N-type cell production in 2024. A closer look at the efficient production capacity reveals that the top 10 manufacturers command more than 55%. Over the next two to three years, these industry leaders will continue to spearhead production expansion, with CR10 maintaining a steady 55%. The combination of heightened demand and advanced technologies will widen the gap between top-tier and second-tier manufacturers in terms of cost, owing to their wealth of experience, larger scale, and superior management. Consequently, top manufacturers are poised for greater profitability.

Turning to HJT, the introduction of thinner wafers, silver-coated copper, 0BB, bifacial microcrystal, and other efficiency-enhancing and cost-reducing processes will amplify the economic appeal of HJT. The expected HJT production capacity is over 100GW, yet, due to technological constraints, costs, and customer considerations, the efficient production of HJT cells is estimated to be 33GW in 2024. The scaling up of HJT's production capacity hinges on the actual production and schedules of major leading manufacturers.

In conclusion, the success of manufacturers in this new wave of technological upgrades hinges on their capital management, advanced production technologies, and supply chain cost control. We find ourselves at a crucial juncture in upgrading and transforming technical routes, making it imperative for manufacturers to secure a solid market share by bringing their production capacity online in advance. Integrated manufacturers stand to gain advantages in cost control through leveraging their scale effect.

Modules: 210R Takes the Lead in Standard Mid-version Modules.

Driven by the push for carbon neutrality and the quest for cost reduction and efficiency improvement, there's a growing market demand for high-efficiency products. According to TrendForce, the market share of N-type modules is poised to surge in 2024, reaching 68.93%, a remarkable year-on-year increase of 42.71%. This surge is expected to fuel the adoption of bifacial modules, placing new demands on encapsulation technologies and key auxiliary materials. Projections indicate that the adoption rate of bifacial modules will climb to 51% by 2024.

To streamline industrial chain production and minimize logistics costs, leading module enterprises reached a consensus in July of this year to standardize module sizes. Consequently, the 2382*1134mm module has emerged as the standard size for mid-tier modules designed for rectangle wafers. Examining the products showcased at large-size module exhibitions reveals that major manufacturers are transitioning their module products to 210R and 210mm sizes. Even manufacturers previously focused on 182mm products are now rolling out their 210R offerings. In the era of 600W+, rectangle 210R+N-type configurations have become the mainstream choice for manufacturers, validated by market feedback.

Looking ahead to production capacity, it is anticipated that the second quarter of 2024 will witness a collective increase in production capacity, leading to a substantial rise in the market share of rectangle wafers dominated by 210R.

At the heart of the PV industry lies the imperative to reduce costs and enhance efficiency, with strategic planning and cost control emerging as key battlegrounds for industry players. The competitive landscape will be shaped by the ability to deploy advanced technologies and expand production capacity, gaining recognition in the upcoming market regulation. Integrated enterprises boasting high shipments of new technology products are expected to reap greater profits. Additionally, companies focusing on developing new technologies, optimizing production, and delivering efficient products are poised to seize the first-mover advantage in the market.

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