JA Solar starts production of MWT solar cell technology from ECN

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JA Solar has started production of its metal wrap-through (MWT) solar cells in China as a precursor to plans to be announced about its next-generation solar cell technology.

The tier 1 PV manufacturer previously joined forces with ECN in 2010 to commercialise MWT technology. Yingli Green has also been a long-term partner with ECN on MWT and other cell technologies.

JA Solar claimed that its MWT-based monocrystalline and multicrystalline cells had an average conversion efficiency of 19.6% and 18.1%, respectively. However, the cells have produced peak conversion efficiencies of 20.0% for monocrystalline and 18.6% for multicrystalline-based cells.

“MWT is at the core of the next generation of module technology, and represents a significant breakthrough in terms of power output and conversion efficiency,” said Mr. Yong Liu, CTO of JA Solar. “Mass production of MWT cells marks a significant milestone in JA Solar's ongoing technological leadership in the global solar industry.”

JA Solar had said in its most recent quarterly conference call that its average conversion efficiencies of its mainstream, non-MWT ‘CYPRESS’ monocrystalline and multicrystalline-based cells had achieved 19.15% and 17.5%, respectively in volume production.

However, in the conference call, Bill Chen, JA Solar’s vice president of strategic development said: “On the R&D side, we made a significant progress in technologies to enable and increase in conversion efficiency on at least 0.4%, making another important milestone in our roadmap to 20% efficiency. We expect to announce our next generation of solar cells in the second half of this year.”

JA Solar did not say what the expected megawatt capacity ramp of the MWT-based cells would be, though typically such cells can be produced on existing high-efficiency cell production lines in tandem with other advanced cells with the inclusion of specialist tool sets for MWT processing. Fully-dedicated MWT lines through to module encapsulation also exist.

As recently revealed in PV Tech’s exclusive review of the Top 10 manufacturer’s R&D spending analysis, JA Solar had restrained spending over the last five years when compared to its peers. The majority of spending had also been focused on wafer technology rather than cell technology. 

The collaboration with ECN and its technology partners from the equipment and materials sectors has proved to have been a low cost but successful path to bringing advanced cell technology to market within a relatively short period of time.  

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