Under the core demands of reducing costs and increasing efficiency, the technological iteration of the photovoltaic industry chain continues to flow…

From polycrystalline to single crystal, from mortar wire to diamond wire, from aluminum backfield to PERC, the technology iteration in the field of photovoltaic cell modules has been extremely fierce in recent years. It is the corner overtaking of the keen enterprise, and it is the lonely figure of the former star enterprise.

Right now, a new round of technological iteration storm is coming again, this time it is the N-type!

At the just-concluded global photovoltaic event SNEC, mainstream module companies launched N-type module products one after another. What is different from the past is that the mass production plan is about to start. However, on the specific technical route of the N-type, the dispute between TOPCon and the heterojunction is still fierce, and what follows is the survival of the huge P-type PERC production capacity.

The power battle of PERC technology

PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell) battery, the full name of “passivated emitter and rear cell”, originated in the 1980s. In 1983, Martin Green, a photovoltaic scientist at the University of New South Wales and his colleagues, first proposed the concept of PERC. Related papers were published in 1989 in which it was announced that the efficiency of PERC cells reached the then world record of 22.8% (laboratory efficiency).

However, PERC swept the photovoltaic industry until 2016. Under the high efficiency threshold set by the national “Lead Runner” plan, PERC technology began to become the preferred technology for the upgrade of the production line of battery module companies.

Compared with the previous conventional BSF batteries, the PERC battery production line only needs to add two processes, one for coating passivation and the other for laser slotting, which can increase the battery conversion rate by 1.0%~1.2%. The high degree of compatibility with traditional production lines also makes the cost-effective advantages of PERC battery modules quickly appear, and the market share is rapidly increasing. According to the “China Photovoltaic Industry Development Roadmap” released by the China Photovoltaic Industry Association, the market share of PERC cells was only 10% in 2016, and the market share of PERC cells in 2020 has increased to 86.4%. As of 2020, the global PERC capacity will exceed 300GW.

In terms of efficiency, the average conversion efficiency of p-type monocrystalline cells produced on a large scale in 2020 will reach 22.8%, and advanced companies will approach 23%. Packaged to modules, it is reported that the efficiency will drop by about two percentage points.

At the beginning of 2019, LONGi announced that its single-crystal double-sided PERC cells have been tested by the National Photovoltaic Quality Inspection Center (CPVT), and the front conversion efficiency has reached 24.06%, breaking the 24% efficiency bottleneck of PERC cells previously believed by the industry. However, it is quite difficult to upgrade the efficiency of PERC batteries.

In this regard, the upgrade of the silicon wafer size to the cost reduction and efficiency enhancement of battery modules opens “another window”, from 156.75mm, 158.75mm, 166mm to 182mm, 210mm, and the module power is rushing from 300W all the way to 600W+.

According to the tracking statistics of Polaris Solar Photovoltaic Network at the SNEC exhibition, ultra-high power modules using large-size silicon wafers of 182mm and 210mm have become essential products of various companies, with module power ranging from 500W to 600W+.

2021 SNEC component companies PERC component products

According to comprehensive information, at the SNEC exhibition, the maximum power of PERC modules is 680W, using 210mm silicon wafers, and the module conversion efficiency is 21.89%.

N-type storm is coming

Facing the huge “ceiling” of PERC module production capacity and efficiency, battery module companies with serious “involution” stepped up to open the new N-type track, and the N-type iteration accelerated.

But as far as the specific N-type technical route is concerned, TOPCon and HJT, companies have their own bets.

N-type products of SNEC component companies in 2021

Longji and Jinko released TOPCon components one after another. Longi’s first TOPCon bifacial module, Hi-MO N, uses Longi HPC battery technology based on the N-type TOPCon structure. This product maintains the optimal module size of 182-72c, mass production conversion efficiency of 22.3%, and mass production power Up to 570W.

Jinko is firmly standing on TOPCon. In an interview with the media, Jinko stated that it has clearly selected N-type TOPCon as the mainstream technology direction for next-generation product development. At present, the company has a GW-level TOPCon mass production line layout with a conversion efficiency of 24.5% for mass production cells. The face rate can reach 85%. At the SNEC exhibition, Jinko exhibited its latest N-type module Tiger Pro N-type, with a maximum output power of 625W and a module efficiency of 22.8%.

Zhonglai shares are TOPcon veteran “supporters”. Jolywood recently released Niwa MAX, a new TOPCon product, with a module power up to 700W, a module efficiency of 22.53%, and a double-sided rate of 80%.

Akcome, Jinneng, and Junshi are all determined by HJT technology. Among them, the conversion efficiency of Junshi HDT modules is as high as 23.3%, which is also the highest module conversion efficiency on the exhibition.

In addition, more companies such as Trina, JA and Tongwei choose TOPCon and HJT. Of course, there are also innovative companies, such as Orient Risen, its latest NewT@N module new product, which adopts the advantages of TOPCon and HJT, and integrates and complements each other. It uses 210mm silicon wafers. Under the condition of ensuring the same module size, the overall efficiency reaches 22.5%, the module output power is as high as 700W.

From the statistics of the exhibition, the highest output power of TOPCon modules is 700W, and the highest module efficiency is 22.53%; the highest output power of HJT modules is 710W, and the highest module efficiency is 23.3%.

Who on earth can TOPCon and HJT win? Industry insiders say that it depends on the mass production efficiency, potential and cost of cells and components. In short, “price ratio” is still the only stepping stone. But the bigger impact is that if TOPCon technology takes the lead and is compatible with the PERC production line, the huge PERC production line can still be upgraded and used; but if the HJT corner overtakes, the PERC capacity of over 300GW will face complete subversion.

It is reported that the current module efficiency of TOPCon and HJT technologies is above 22.5%. In terms of cost, PERC technology upgrades TOPCon, 1GW equipment investment is about 50 million, and HJT is as high as about 500 million.

Mass production of N-type modules is imminent; next year, the cost of TOPCon will be lower than PERC… Judging from the latest disclosures of module companies, the N-type technology storm is accelerating, and whether PERC technology is upgraded or subverted is facing challenges.