120GW and counting: Cell manufacturing expansions highlight the swift rise of 210mm wafers

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Image: Trina Solar.

The news that RENA Technologies, an international PV equipment supplier, received a G12 wafer PERC order from a major Asian PV manufacturer has again placed modules featuring 210mm large-area wafers under the spotlight.

RENA claims the order, worth tens of million of Euros and the largest in the company’s history, is part of their client’s plan to expand PERC production by 15GW.

Since its release in 2019 by Zhonghuan Semiconductor, the G12 (210mm) large-size wafer has been evolving, resulting in a more mature supply chain. Zhonghuan and GCL-Poly took over the upstream with wafers, and cell manufacturers like Aiko Solar, Tongwei and Yingfa entered the market one by one. Now, manufacturers to have adopted 210mm wafers such as Trina Solar, Risen Energy, and Huansheng Solar have moved towards mass production and expansion.

On the equipment end, apart from RENA and its sizeable order, Shenzhen S.C, JSG, XN Automation and Shangkong Technology are dashing to find their place in the market created by these new production lines.

In terms of application, Trina Solar and Risen Energy have reached a consensus on the size of 600W+ modules that meet the needs of both end clients and the supply chain, allowing them to streamline and standardise installation and design specifications of those 600W+ modules. This could go some way to allay concerns over system design, and enable mass production by supply chain partners.

“The size of 210 dates back to semiconductors. Most technologies here can be seen in the semiconductor sector and some other industries. Once you master the principles behind it, the barriers can be torn down easily. The companies have considered the situation from the perspective of the ecological chain, and all sectors from both upstream and downstream have been optimised after this size was released. The Alliance was then established to facilitate discussion, and now the supply chain has come up with various solutions,” A company executive from the 600W+ Solar Open Innovation Ecological Alliance told PV Tech.

Among those companies that form the Alliance, apart from wafer, cell and module manufacturers, some upstream and downstream companies like tracker mounting, inverter, material and equipment suppliers are also on the list. The Alliance now has 59 members instead of the 39 previously announced and continues to attract new members.

This year Aiko Solar, Tongwei, Trina Solar, Risen Energy and JA Solar all have announced their respective large-scale expasion programs, such as Tongwei’s 7.5GW Meishan Phase 2 and 7.5GW Jintang Phase 1 210mm large-size PERC expansion; Aikosolar’s Yiwu 10GW high efficiency cell project that is fully compatible with 210mm and smaller sizes, and Yingfa’s new 7.5GW high efficiency cell technology for 210mm and smaller sizes also. In total, more than 230GW of cell capacity expansions have been announced this year to date.

Cell expansion plans by manufacturers in 2020
Company Expansion capacity (GW) Date announced / location
JinkoSolar 14.5 March / Haining
10 April / Shangrao
JA Solar 10 February / Yiwu
10 April / Yiwu
10 August / TBA
LONGi 10 February / Xi’an
3 February / Vietnam (Acquisition)
10 July / Beihai
Risen Energy 15 June / Zhejiang
7.5 June / Zhejiang
8 July / TBA
Tongwei 7.5 April / Meishan
7.5 April / Jintang
Aiko Solar 10 February / Tianjin
10 July / Tianjin
10 August / Yiwu
Trina Solar 5 Agreement signed in January
10 (7.6 newly built, 2.4 rebuilt) August / Yancheng
2.5 August / Overseas
Zhonghuan 3 February / TBA
TBA April / Gaoyou
Yingfa Group 7.5 May / Anhui
CHNT 10 July / Yancheng
Jiangsu Zhongrun 10 February / Suqian
Eging PV 10 January / Changzhou
Seraphim/Lu’an Solar 5 February / TBA
Zhanyu Group 5 February / TBA
Huajun Power 10 February / Nanjing
TOTAL 231
Source: PV Tech China

According to an industry survey on capacity expansion and production lines of tier 1, 2, and 3 cell manufacturers and new investments, the production capacity of 210mm mono cells stands to reach an astonishing 120.5GW, based on expansions announced this year to date, while that of 182mm cells stands to reach almost 90GW, indicating how, as it stands, planned 210mm expansions are outpacing those of its 182mm counterparts.

Manufacturing capacity by cell size
Mono total capacity (GW/year) 156.75/158.75 161.7 163.75 166 182 210
371.39 66.04 4 9.85 2.5 89.8 120.5
From third party statistics

One industry analyst told PV Tech: “The production line of 210 cells is in good shape. This line is compatible with smaller sizes, while if you want a 210 line rebuilt from a 182 one you need to invest an extra RMB10-20 million on improvements. So everyone wants to settle it in one go.

“From the angle of cell equipment investment, two stages are roughly observed: production compatible with 158.75 and smaller sizes before 2017, and that with 166 and smaller during 2017-2019. Now a new stage is emerging that all capacity built after 2020 is designed for 210.”

It is learned that though most module manufactures are promoting 158.75 and 166, many tier 1 producers, new module players and new investments are targeting 210. On the other hand, Trina Solar and Risen Energy who pipped others to the post for large sizes are reaping the fruits — orders.

Trina Solar announced on 18 September that its Vertex series of modules had received a total of 1GW orders globally, mainly from Asia Pacific, Mid-East, Latin America and Europe, among which Europe takes up 200MW.

Zhang Yingbin, senior director of product and marketing under Trina Solar’s Solar Product Value Group, said, “The Vertex series offers a brand-new product-technology platform. With the improvement of technology, the conversion efficiency is likely to exceed 24%. Along with the design optimisation, the improving loadability and installation methods, the power of the Vertex modules is getting higher and higher.”

The total manufacturing capacity of the Vertex series is to reach 10GW by the end of the year, and is expected to reach 21GW and 31GW at the end of 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Recently a renowned institute in China tested modules featuring 210mm, 182mm and 166mm cells and found that the low side cost declines with the rising power. The 545Wp module with 210mm wafer enjoyed the lowest overall cost under the conditions of all latitudes, 0.1-0.17 yuan/W less than that of the 445Wp with 166mm wafer, and 0.03-0.07yuan/W lower than that of 535Wp with 182mm.

Trina Solar also insists that its Vertex series’ resistance to hot spots has set a new benchmark for high efficiency module design, while industry concerns surrounding the shipping and logistical challenges of larger, heavier models are being somewhat dismissed. Trina said its second generation Vertez module adopts a two-layer vertical short-edge stack, improving the utilisation of standard shipping containers by 9% over that of its first generation.

The cover feature of PV Tech Power volume 24 discusses at length the introduction of 210mm large area-size wafers and their impact on the indstry, including its impact on balance of system, project design and shipping and logistics. Volume 24 of PV Tech Power can be purchased and downloaded via the PV Tech Store.

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