JA Solar, JinkoSolar, and LONGi Aim to Create the Optimal Solution for Photovoltaic Cost per Kilowatt-Hour in 2021 Through 54GW of 182mm Module Production Capacity

PVTIME – On November 12, the “182mm Module and System Technology Forum”, jointly organized by JA Solar, JinkoSolar, and LONGi was successfully held in Shanghai. The forum invited many inverter enterprises, bracket manufacturers, EPC enterprises, and third-part certification institutes to comprehensively analyze the design, production cost, compatibility, system applications, and product certification of 182mm modules.

With the advent of the era of grid parity, the industry is more focused than ever on the ability of high-power modules with large-sized cells’ ability to reduce LCOE. However, the increase in size also brings a series of challenges for the industry. Ji Zhenshuang, Deputy General Manager of China General Certification, reminded the industry that “While the increase in size brings about an increase in the power output of a module, we must also pay attention to system safety and compatibility throughout the industry chain, especially in terms of electrical parameters. The bottom line is to ensure safety and reliability. Currently, module technology is still in a period of rapid change, gradual adjustments to standardization may prove to be more conducive for overall industry development.”

“Manufacturers need to consider many factors when increasing module size. Factors ranging from module circuit design, reliability, process capability, packaging, transportation, system design, and operation and maintenance, etc.” Zou Chicheng, Vice President of TUV Rheinland, suggested from the perspective of a certification institute for what photovoltaic enterprises should consider when they try to determine the optimal solution between size and safety.

Safety and reliability are the basic demands every photovoltaic company should have for their products. Li Shaotang, Senior Product Manager of LONGi, said, “The industry has considered the idea of increasing the size and power of modules as early as 2018. However, bigger does not necessarily mean better. Enterprises need to comprehensively consider factors including the manufacturing process, module transportation, and product reliability. The 182mm modules are a near-perfect match for the existing industry chain and electrical system. At the same time, in terms of the cost of electricity, the 182mm module is better than the 210mm module due to its lower system cost, better power generation capacity, and reliability, making it the optimal choice for utility-scale power plants.”

In fact, the cost reduction brought by large-size modules has already been recognized by the industry. Senior Product Manager of JinkoSolar, Yu Hanbodao, said, “Improving power generation capacity by reducing line loss and internal loss are ways to reduce costs. Compared with the 55 cell version of the 210mm module, the 182mm module can reduce line loss by 0.21% and internal loss by 2%. This loss would otherwise have to be compensated by the EPC at more than 0.1 yuan/watt. In terms of BOS cost, the 182mm module can bring about 2.6 cents/watt of savings compared to the 210mm module. Through multifaceted comparisons of the cost of electricity, BOS, and IRR, the 182mm module proves to be the best choice.”

Additionally, in terms of production and manufacturing, 182mm modules have gradually entered the stage of mass production due to technical maturity. Wang Mengsong, Senior Vice President Assistant and Senior Product Technical Expert of JA Solar, said, “The crystallization rate for 182mm and 158mm products is basically the same, and there is still room for improvement in the future. Although the yield of the slicing process is slightly lower, it will soon reach the same level as the 158mm silicon wafer. Cell efficiency can also be increased to 23.1% through the optimization of processes in each link. At present, the efficiency of mass-produced 182mm modules has reached beyond 21%. In terms of shipping, compared with 158 mm/166mm products, each shipping container can be loaded with about 10% – 20% more watts.” More importantly, Wang Mengsong stressed that “182mm products have multiple qualified suppliers for each link of the industry chain. It is estimated that in 2021, the overall crystal pulling capacity is expected to be around 250GW, and the pulling of 182mm crystals can account for up to 91.7% domestically. Regarding solar-grade glass, we anticipate glass production capacity to be 220GW next year, of which 50.5% will be used in the manufacturing of 182mm products.”

On the subject of inverter adaptation, leading inverter companies Huawei and Sungrow both stated that their related products are fully compatible with 182mm modules. Gan Binbin, Director of Huawei’s Global Solutions, believes that “High-power modules can bring about the problem of matching the maximum current of the inverter’s MPPT with the module’s operating current. In addition, the risks of cracking, hot spots, and diode failure are increased. However, Huawei’s products can fully match various types of modules, and relies on AI BOOST’s intelligent algorithms and diagnosis to effectively help reduce costs and increase efficiency.”

Zhang Yanhu, Vice President of Sungrow, said, “The increase in module current will increase the diameter of low-voltage DC cables, thereby pushing up cable costs. At the same time, excessive changes in module current will also affect the applicability of string inverters and combiner boxes. Centralized inverters can flexibly adapt to various types of modules and DC combiner boxes can adapt to 182mm and 210mm high-current modules as well. As a representative of power plant integrators, I call on the industry to unify under one module size and improve the compatibility of the system. The next step will be to focus on further improving the efficiency of cell and modules, and jointly ushering in the era of grid parity.”

In terms of brackets, Guo Zhikai, Senior Product Director of NEXTracker, said, “Tracking brackets have met challenges that come with each module iteration one after another. For today’s 182mm modules, the 1P/NX Horizon and 2P/NX Gemini are fully compatible with the 72 cell design, and the cost can be further reduced by optimizing the 78 cell modules. The 1P/NX Horizon and 2P/NX Gemini are able to fully support the module load and requirements of projects. In terms of reliability, our trackers can ensure the stability of even the largest modules.”

The coordinated operations between various links in the photovoltaic industrial chain will greatly accelerate the application of 182mm modules. At the same time, the guidance of professionals from design institutes will facilitate cost reduction and increase efficiency further. In 2021, the combined production capacity of 182mm modules between JA Solar, JinkoSolar, and LONGi will reach 54GW, bolstering the confidence in market supply. In the foreseeable future, as production gradually improves, 182mm modules will achieve good results and help the industry realize grid parity.