China Sunergy shifting production priority to ‘Quasar’ cell technology

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

In a move that could herald a wave of tier-1 China-based PV manufacturers switching priority away from capacity expansions to focus on the ramp of high-efficiency cells and modules, China Sunergy (CSUN) is shifting capital spending to its Quasar selective emitter monocrystalline-based cell technology. CSUN management gave clear plans during a conference call to discuss third-quarter results regarding the ramp of the Quasar technology which will replace a significant amount of existing but idled capacity by the end of 2012.

CSUN’s CEO Stephen Zhifang Cai highlighted in the call that not only did the overcapacity issue continue at the production level but it is prevalent throughout the supply chain. This has resulted in CSUN running cell production at only 60% utilization rates, while module production was down to 30% utilization, following actions that were taken to prevent inventory build in September, including US$26.8 million of inventory provision in the last quarter. A reorganization and reduction in head count was also being initiated, Cai noted.

However, Cai also explained that the company had instigated a significant increase in capital expenditures for the fourth quarter – to the tune of over US$50 million – that would primarily be used to ramp its Quasar cell technology to 140MW in the first quarter of 2012. The company is also planning to shift around 25% of its modules using the high-efficiency cells.

CSUN has spent US$13.8 million on CapEx in the third quarter, primarily for previously planned capacity expansions.

“In October [2011] we made our first commercial sale of Quasar modules to our customer in Switzerland and as first of many more to come,” commented Cai in the conference call. “Our new Quasar cell production line is consistently trending out cells with an average efficiency rate of 18.6%.

The Swiss customer mentioned by Cai was Sunergic S.A., to whom CSUN had delivered 0.30MW of the Quasar modules in mid-October, 2011.

CSUN had previously noted in the first quarter of 2011 that its Quasar cell pilot line had entered into production in May and had  demonstrated a highest efficiency rate of 18.58% and a batch average of 18.35%.

“Our capacity for Quasar cell production is expected to reach 140 megawatts in the first quarter of the next year. And that we hope that next year about a quarter of our production will be of this high-tech cell. Most of the capacity expansion in that near future will be for Quasar cells, but we are slowing down our capacity expansion outside of [moduling] for the time being,” added Cai.

Commenting to PV-Tech on CSUN’s technology shift, Finlay Colville, analyst at Solarbuzz said, “Sunergy’s announcement to expand Quasar cell production lines represents an early indicator of a technology-buy cycle, albeit very much customer and process-flow specific. Ramping Quasar capacity in excess of 100MW during first-half 2012 and targeting 25% of module production next year to come from Quasar cells does come however with high levels of risk.”

However, the risks are worth taking, according to CSUN’s CEO. High-performance modules are a known way to eke-out better margins, especially when margins on standard modules with average efficiencies are almost non-existent due to the overcapacity in the volume end of the market.

“Although, our short-term financial results continue to be poor, we believe we are doing all the right things to succeed in the long run,” noted Cai in his prepared remarks during the call. He added that, “minimizing cost and our expenses, cutting output, conserving cash and developing our Quasar technology, so that what we sell is clearly differentiated from the competition.”

“Gross profit on the Quasar modules could be above $0.04 higher per watt, compared to our current modules. This technological advantage is hugely important to improving our gross margin in the medium and the long-term,” Cai said.

Colville however, remained cautious, noting that, “The process flow for Quasar cells does involve several changes from the standard cell lines and while Sunergy may indeed be seen as the trend-setters in altering front-end cell equipment in years to come, they will have to fast-track mass production optimization in-house very quickly.”

The market analyst also highlighted that Cai’s comments on gaining back lost margin by shifting production to Quasar-based modules was all about generating a sufficient delta on ASPs using Quasar modules to absorb the higher CapEx (process tool throughput limited today) and manufacturing costs.

Such criteria would therefore ultimately determine whether Quasar is more successful than Sunergy’s previous efforts to roll out selective emitter technology to the market.

“The higher power panels may be essential simply to win business, rather than win at a price premium or Quasar modules may be used as a closing strategy to help shift lower power modules from inventory,” concluded Colville.

19 August 2021
The utility-scale PV market is poised for exponential growth and yet the industry still has many fundamental opportunities to improve on standards and best practice. Tracker shade loss has been one of those topics that deserve more attention, but has been typically handled by derate factors rather than trying to accurately forecast the loss over the life of the system. Join Nextracker’s subject matter experts, Aron Dobos and Neelesh Umachandran, and Rounak Kharait, director of solar energy assessments at DNV, for a webinar about why shade modeling matters and recommendations on what the solar industry should do about it.
25 August 2021
Energy Next is a new industry exhibition focusing on the latest renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, which will be held for the first time in 2021 in Sydney, Australia alongside the Clean Energy Council’s Australian Clean Energy Summit, the peak gathering of leaders driving Australia's energy transformation. Organised by the same people behind Australia’s largest clean energy event, All-Energy Australia, Energy Next will give visitors two days of access to key suppliers in the industry, free-to-attend professional development and industry workshops, and networking opportunities to better understand clean energy issues and solutions and learn about the latest developments in this transformational, dynamic sector.
25 August 2021
The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste takes place in Fortaleza, Brazil. It addresses leading local and international experts on solar power and renewable energy in the region. The Summit’s mission is to provide in-depth education, enable high-quality networking opportunities, expand the use of PV technologies at regional and national level and strengthen the local PV industry. The Intersolar Summit Brasil Nordeste is organized by Intersolar South America - Latin America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry: Solar Promotion International GmbH, Pforzheim, Freiburg Management and Marketing International GmbH (FMMI) and Aranda Eventos & Congressos Ltda, São Paulo as co-organizer.
25 August 2021
Join us to hear directly from the CTOs and heads-of-research from the top-20 cell/wafer producers to the PV industry today. The event will focus on predicting the key metrics underpinning the next big shift to n-type with answers to the key questions: When will the transition to n-type happen? Which companies will be first to 10 GW capacity and production? Who will be the key equipment suppliers for the new production lines? Which n-type process flow/architecture will emerge as the front-runner? What will polysilicon purity and wafer thickness levels look like for optimized n-type manufacturing? What will the upstream poly/wafer supply-chain look like in 5 years from now?
26 August 2021
In this webinar, JA Solar will present its product portfolio based on the latest technologies to improve your PV projects, ensuring maximum reliability and performance. During the webinar we will receive insight from JA Solar about its solar technology roadmap and how the manufacturer is providing customers with innovative solutions to suit their needs, while we will also analyse how to determine the best product solution for each solar project.
6 September 2021
The 38th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition will be held online from 6 - 10 September 2021, allowing PV experts from all around the globe to participate with just one click! The EU PVSEC is the world's leading forum for PV Research and Development and the biggest Conference on PV Solar Energy worldwide. That is why PV experts from all around the globe are keen on gathering together each year to be part of this specialist’s event, to present and discuss the latest developments in Photovoltaics, to network and to conduct business.

Read Next

PV Tech Premium
July 30, 2021
Not only will solar be the dominant source of new power generation in Europe by 2025, cementing its position as the third largest market for solar globally, but the continent has placed the asset class at the very heart of its COVID-19 recovery strategy. As part of a week-long special report on PV Tech Premium, Liam Stoker, Edith Hancock and Jules Scully explore the drivers for solar in Europe, the key markets and the challenges that remain.
July 30, 2021
First Solar has unveiled plans to construct a 3.3GWdc module assembly facility in India, bolstering its manufacturing footprint outside of the US.
July 30, 2021
Anglo-Australian mining company BHP, in partnership with Canada’s TransAlta Renewables, is to build two solar farms and a battery storage system to help power its Mt Keith and Leinster nickel mines in Western Australia
July 30, 2021
German energy giant RWE has upgraded its earnings forecast for 2021 after “exceptionally positive” earnings trend
July 29, 2021
Tracker and racking provider Arctech has delivered SkySmart II tracking system to a 575MW agriculture-sharing solar project located in Nangong City, Hebei Province, China.
July 29, 2021
Unigreen Energy, owned by Hevel majority shareholder Ream Management LLC, has broken ground on a wafer and cell manufacturing plant that will produce 1.3GW of silicon n-type monocrystalline ingots and wafers as well as 1GW of heterojunction technology (HJT) solar cells.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Upcoming Webinars
August 19, 2021
At 9am (PT) | 6pm (CEST)
Solar Media Events
August 25, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021