Emphasis on R&D and partnerships key strategy for Gintech Energy

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

Major Taiwan-based solar cell producer Gintech Energy Corp is placing greater emphasis on partnering with companies outside its core cell manufacturing activities, while focusing on R&D activities to remain a key player in the sector. 

Dr. Wen-Yen Pan, chairman and CEO of Gintech Energy recently sat down with PV Tech at the company headquarters in Hsinshu, Taiwan to discuss a range of key business and technology topics. 

It has been a bumpy financial ride for Gintech in the last 12 months, primarily driven by the imposition of anti-dumping import duties in the US. Gintech reported weak March 2015 sales, marking a new low point in sales since 2013.

Solar cell shipments also flat lined in 2014. Gintech’s solar shipments stood at 1,346MW at the end of 2014, compared to 1,382MW shipped in 2013. 

As a major merchant supplier of high-efficiency solar cells and ranked eighth globally by market research firm IHS, Gintech had been a key supplier to Chinese module manufacturers supplying product into the booming US market. 

Like its main Taiwanese rivals such as Neo Solar Power (NSP), Motech Industries and TSEC Corp, Taiwan cell producers have also benefited from strong outsourcing demand from Japanese module producers and the recent production imbalances seen at integrated PV manufacturers, preferring to add new module capacity at the expense of ingot/wafer and solar cell capacity additions. 

As a result, 40% of total shipments in 2014 went to greater China customers, while 26% went to the EU. ‘East Asia,’ which primarily meant Japan and India accounted for 15% of total shipments last year, followed by ‘Emerging Markets’, which included the US, Thailand and Africa accounted for around 19% of total shipments.

Capacity expansion plans

Not surprisingly, Gintech recently announced it was to establish a 350MW cell production plant in Thailand, investing approximately US$45 million in the first phase to acquire land, facilities and equipment. 

The company plans for production to start in the first quarter of 2016 with the aim of providing a broader geographical manufacturing footprint and support module assembly firms in the country, noting that solar cell ASPs in Thailand were 20% higher than market prices in China and Taiwan due to trade barriers.

However, according to Dr. Pan Phase 1 in Thailand would also include 150MW of ‘high-end’ module production and that production of cells and modules were expected to be ramped by the end of 2015.

Dr. Pan noted that these PV modules would be exported and production “fast-tracked” primarily for its US customers as well as its strategic module partner Gintung and JV EPC firm CTCI, which is also planning PV power plants projects in the US and is said to be the largest EPC in Taiwan. A major shareholder in CTCI is Mitsubishi. 

He also highlighted that Thailand offered the best support for establishing manufacturing bases in the country and said there was “not any possibility of anti-dumping duties” on the country. 

Dr. Pan also added that Gintung had a module capacity of 320MW at the end of 2014, yet was planning a major expansion to 1GW by early 2016.

Despite the impact of the US anti-dumping duties on sales from mid-2014 onwards, shipment output to manufacturing capacity has been relatively tight since 2012 as overall market demand continued to increase. 

As a result, Gintech increased solar cell capacity from 1.5GW in 2013 to 1.8GW by the end of 2014. The addition of the Thailand plant will take Gintech’s nameplate solar cell capacity to 2.15GW. 

One of Gintech’s largest customers has been Sharp Corporation, which Dr. Pan noted “had actually been its largest customer for the last 10 years”.

Other well known downstream players including SunEdison were said by Dr. Pan to be a major customer. SunEdison has already guided plans to double PV project completions in 2015 to over 2GW, with projects in the US and globally. 

R&D activities

Critical to Gintech’s future success is the emphasis on R&D, which has typically been around 2% of total sales, according to Gintech’s chairman.

“This industry has not been healthy for several years due to the overcapacity and declining ASPs. Many good companies around the world have gone. Personally I think this is not been good for the industry and many companies have not had money to invest in R&D. I have tried to persuade at every chance my competitors and colleagues to push technology and differentiate Taiwan cells from the likes of China. 

“Gintech puts a lot of effort into R&D, we should be very strong in P-type technology rather than N-type due to the increased number of process steps and cost issues associated,” noted Dr. Pan. “There are only two companies in volume production with high-efficiency P-type PERC solar cells, Gintech is one of them.”

At SNEC 2013, Gintech launched its ‘Diamond Series’ series of multicrystalline solar cells that were verified by TÜV Rheinland at 19.5% conversion efficiencies. 

The three bus bar (segmented) design includes a SiNx anti-reflecting coating and are PID (Potential Induced Degradation) free.

Maintaining compatibility to present module assembly processes while being of similar reliability has been a key aspect of the cell series and typically provides modules with around 270W performance. The company also provides a four bus bar monocrystalline cell in the Diamond Series with 20% to 20.6% efficiencies that is also PID free. 

Gintech also offers its ‘Douro Series’ cells that in 2014 provide conversion efficiencies of 19% to 19.6% and 17.6% to 18.2% for mono and multi configurations respectively. 

PERC-based cells accounted for around 20% of Gintech’s production in the first quarter of 2015, equating to around 350MW. 

“Taiwan has produced the highest cell efficiencies, reliability and quality consistency all through a focus on R&D,” added Dr Pen. “Taiwan has done a much, much better practical job than most countries taking technology from lab to fab the best.” 

Although still concerned about overcapacity in the supply chain and weak ASPs Dr. Pen remains optimistic about future global PV demand and grid parity demand dynamics in a growing number of countries. 

28 September 2021
Solar Solutions International is the largest trade show for solar energy in Northwest Europe. Now the solar market has grown up, it's time for the next step. Solar Solutions International displays more than 500 innovations and over 100 practical seminars concerning the latest in energy storage, smart products, and an ever evolving array of solar panels. As an exclusively B2B trade show, Solar Solutions International offers both exhibitors and visitors the chance to network at the highest level. Duurzaam Verwarmd, the largest trade show for sustainable HVAC technology in the Benelux, is held simultaneously. This way your one visit gets you up to date with all of the developments in both sustainable energy and heating.
6 October 2021
Intersolar Europe is the world’s leading exhibition for the solar industry. It takes place as part of The smarter E Europe – the continent’s largest platform for the energy industry. Under the motto “Connecting solar business,” manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, service providers and project planners and developers from around the world meet in Munich every year to discuss the latest developments and trends, explore innovations firsthand and meet potential new customers.
6 October 2021
The future is bright for a new era of US solar and storage, and the 8th annual Solar & Storage Finance Summit will provide opportunities to discuss solutions to the industry’s challenges and provide a networking platform designed to bring together the top minds in the industry to do business. With a mix of high-level, informative presentations and panels, a stellar cast of speakers and audience members with deal-making capacity, the 2021 edition of the event will be a sell-out success.
6 October 2021
Join this free webinar to hear Martin Green, Scientia Professor, University of New South Wales explain the physical and technological limits for PERC cells and the potential efficiency advantages of TOPCon, HJT and IBC: - How much further can PERC efficiency be pushed? Has it run out of puff or is it just getting started? - The relative merits of TOPCon, HJT and IBC cell variants - The manufacturing technologies that need to be optimised for each of these cell variants (This is the keynote presentation from PV CellTech Online, 25th August 2021)
18 October 2021
Intersolar South America, South America’s largest exhibition and conference for the solar industry, takes place at the Expo Center Norte in São Paulo, Brazil on October 18–20, 2021, and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. At the accompanying Intersolar South America Conference, renowned experts shed light on hot topics in the solar industry.
19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.

Read Next

September 27, 2021
Solar developer 174 Power Global and oil and gas company TotalEnergies have started construction of an 80MW behind-the-meter PV project in Texas.
September 27, 2021
Canadian company Ubiquity Solar will construct a cell manufacturing plant in upstate New York that will have an initial 350MWp production line, according to state Governor Kathy Hochul.
September 27, 2021
Solar Module Super League’ (SMSL) member JinkoSolar is investing US$500 million to set up a monocrystalline ingot and wafer manufacturing facility in Vietnam that will supply its cell and module plants in the US and Malaysia.
September 27, 2021
A new support scheme from India’s government to boost the domestic manufacture of PV modules has seen 18 bidders submit 54.8GW of applications, according to consultancy JMK Research & Analytics.
September 27, 2021
A round-up of the latest appointment news from across the world, including new hires from Alight Energy, Meteocontrol, NTR and EY-Parthenon
September 26, 2021
A 10.5GW solar-plus-wind project is under development in Morocco’s Guelmim Oued Noun region, with 3.6GW of this to be exported to Great Britain.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events, Upcoming Webinars
October 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021