Mao Tingting, a photovoltaic industry analyst from SMM, presented the industrialization progress and market outlook for HJT solar cells at SMM's 11th Minor Metals Industry Summit and Scattered Metals Forum in 2023.
In 2022, the global photovoltaic industry witnessed a newly installed capacity of approximately 251.1GW. Forecasts for 2023 predict a rise to 369.9GW, marking a year-on-year increase of 47.3%.
The photovoltaic market is projected to sustain strong growth through 2027, with China maintaining its position as the world's largest photovoltaic market.
High demand for installations is also expected to sustain in the European and US markets.
The year 2024 marks a significant period of capacity expansion for HJT solar cells, potentially carving a distinctive competitive advantage in the N-type solar cell market. Mass production is forecasted to surge around 2025 when its market share is projected to hit 15%.
By 2025, HJT is poised to achieve mass production with a cost per watt lower than that of PERC/Topcon solar cells, potentially leading the market. Moreover, a substantial market share growth is anticipated between 2027 and 2030, fueled by a synergistic partnership with perovskite technology.
Outlook on the Scale of the Photovoltaic Installation Market and Trends in Solar Cell Technology Development
In 2022, the global photovoltaic sector saw approximately 251.1GW of new installations. This figure is anticipated to rise to 369.9GW in 2023, translating to a year-on-year growth of 47.3%. In line with government objectives, the photovoltaic market is set to continue its robust growth through 2027. China retains its position as the world's largest photovoltaic market. Similarly, the demand for installations in the European and US markets is projected to remain at a high level.
The continuous advancement of photovoltaic solar cell technology hinges on "improving efficiency" and "reducing costs".
The power output of photovoltaic solar cells is intrinsically tied to factors such as cell area, conversion efficiency, solar radiation intensity, temperature, and atmospheric conditions.
The central focus parameters for photovoltaic solar cells include photoelectric conversion efficiency, degradation rate, bifaciality, performance under low light, and the temperature coefficient.
The nominal power of an individual solar cell = Solar cell area x Solar radiation intensity (1000W/h) x Conversion efficiency
At present, P-type solar cells (with a primary focus on PERC technology) predominate in the photovoltaic industry due to their straightforward manufacturing process and lower costs.
However, the average mass production efficiency for PERC solar cells is 23.2%, nearing its theoretical conversion efficiency limit of 24.5%. This proximity to the limit presents a significant challenge for any substantial efficiency improvements for PERC solar cells.
The impetus for the transition to N-type solar cell technology is compelling.
Compared to traditional P-type solar cells, N-type cells exhibit superiorities such as higher conversion efficiency, greater bifaciality, lower temperature coefficient, virtually no light-induced degradation, and improved performance under low light conditions.
Current mainstream N-type solar cells include TOPCon, HJT, and IBC. TOPCon offers high maximum efficiency and low production line conversion costs; HJT provides high mass production efficiency and a clear roadmap for cost reduction; IBC has a higher conversion potential, but improvements in cost-effectiveness will take time.
At present, the actual mass production efficiency of Topcon ranges from 24%-25.2%, and HJT is around 25%, both surpassing P-type PERC solar cells by 1%-2%.
Advancements in the Fabrication and Industrialization of HJT Solar Cells
2.1 Structure of HJT Solar Cells
HJT Solar Cells, also known as amorphous silicon thin-film heterojunction solar cells, are constructed from two distinct semiconductor materials, forming a heterojunction.
This technology was first pioneered by Japan's Sanyo Corporation in 1990. Over the subsequent 30 years, the industry has navigated through stages of embryonic development, laboratory exploration, preliminary commercialization, and steady industrialization.
HJT Solar Cells feature a symmetrical structure in the front and back, making them suitable for bifacial power generation. They amalgamate the benefits of crystalline silicon solar cells and thin-film solar cells, representing a groundbreaking technology.
2.2 Fabrication of HJT Solar Cells - A Streamlined, Yet Expensive Process
The fabrication process of HJT Solar Cells entails four primary stages, demonstrating substantial simplification compared to the PERC/Topcon process.
Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) serves as the linchpin in the production of HJT Solar Cells, constituting more than half of the total equipment investment and representing the most technologically challenging stage.
2.3 This Year's Planned Production Capacity for HJT Solar Cells Reflects a 163% Increase Since the Start of the Year
As per the survey conducted by SMM:
Approximately 46 domestic companies are strategizing the installation of HJT Solar Cell production lines, with over 59 project sites in operation.
The domestically planned production capacity of HJT solar cells has exceeded 308GW, marking a 163% growth compared to the initial plans at the year's onset.
Anhui Huasun Energy leads the pack with the most significant planned production capacity, closely followed by Risen Energy. It is anticipated that multiple industry leaders will soon venture into the expansion of HJT solar cell production.
There are 12 firms with plans to produce more than 10GW of HJT solar cells. a limited number of companies specialize solely in solar cell production; most typically engage in integrated production of solar cells and modules.
Purchasing complete production line equipment has emerged as a trend. The planned production capacity generally becomes operational within about three years, with most companies commencing the first phase with comprehensive testing of a 600MW line.
2.4 Nationwide Distribution of HJT Solar Cells Production Capacity - Predominantly in Jiangsu, Anhui, and Other Areas
As per the survey conducted by SMM:
The distribution of HJT projects is chiefly concentrated in Jiangsu (25.34%), Anhui (19.77%), and Zhejiang (13.38%). Investment in photovoltaic solar cells is hefty, particularly for HJT solar cells, with the total investment for a single GW production line oscillating between 400-500 million yuan. The cluster effect in this industry is robust, significantly spurring local investment, talent recruitment, and generating a vast number of job opportunities. Various regions nationwide have implemented respective industry support policies. Due to the considerable differences in policy support across provinces and cities, Anhui is anticipated to have the greatest potential for capacity expansion.
Regarding the completeness of the supply chain, Jiangsu, Anhui, and Sichuan currently possess substantial advantages.
Places like Inner Mongolia and Yunnan, thanks to their upstream resources and electricity price benefits, are experiencing noticeable capacity layout growth.
In the future, the research, development, and industrialization of high-tech solar cells will not be confined to the eastern regions. Instead, they will form industrial clusters across the nation, showing a trend of centralized expansion into major areas.
2.5 HJT Solar Cell Equipment Deployment Progress Tracking — Anticipated to Breakthrough 66GW by the End of 2023
As per the survey conducted by SMM:
As of the present moment, the nominal capacity of HJT is 38.75GW. This figure incorporates equipment that is in the midst of installation or undergoing trials.
Currently, the production capacity of equipment scheduled for deployment within this year is 27.90GW.
By the conclusion of 2023, the domestic nominal capacity of HJT is projected to reach 66.65GW.
Significant factors impeding the acceleration of HJT mass production include:
Only four domestic companies possess the capability to mass-produce essential HJT equipment and complete production lines. With a noticeable surge in HJT equipment orders this year, the production capacity of HJT equipment is under strain, and the expected delivery period for a full production line extends to roughly six months.
The industry's aggressive expansion has imposed stricter requirements on manufacturing process and cost control. Yet, the application of certain new technologies in equipment and processes hasn't been sufficiently validated over time, necessitating a lengthy period for equipment fine-tuning and adjustment.
There's a critical shortage of professionals with core technological skills within China.
HJT Solar Cell Market Development Forecast
3.1 SWOT Analysis of the HJTSolar Cell Industry — Unprecedented Opportunities Arising from Technological Evolution
1. HJT Solar cells exhibit superior electricity generation capabilities and hold immense potential for efficiency enhancements. The combination of perovskite and HJT can notably boost the conversion efficiency of HJT Solar cells.
2. A clear roadmap for cost reduction
3. The production process is streamlined with fewer steps, leading to higher yield rates.
1. At present, the costs associated with HJT Solar cell equipment and materials are high.
2. Domestic equipment and processing technology are still in their nascent stages.
3. There is a dearth of professionals skilled in HJT Solar cell technology research and development within the country, and the cultivation period for such talents is lengthy.
4. Technological limitations have led to a slow growth in supply.
1. HJT, a game-changing technology in the Solar cell field, is still in its early phase of expansion. Traditional manufacturers have yet to mass-deploy, thus newcomers capitalizing on expansion now can secure a first-mover advantage.
2. HJT modules have garnered further recognition from downstream state-owned power plants, potentially catalyzing the pace of HJT industrialization.
3. The photovoltaic industry is undergoing rapid development, with considerable policy support for innovative technologies.
1. The substantial ramp-up of Topcon Solar cell's production capacity has allowed it to preemptively dominate the downstream market, thereby reducing the potential demand for HJT Solar cells.
2. The photovoltaic industry is grappling with severe overcapacity, which empowers downstream entities to negotiate more aggressively, potentially further eroding HJT's profit margins.
3.2 Clear Roadmap for Cost Reduction in HJT Solar Cell with Substantial Room for Improvement
N-type Solar cells are more expensive than P-type, largely due to the requirements for higher purity polysilicon, extensive use of silver paste, and equipment depreciation.
However, costs related to silver paste and equipment can be mitigated through process enhancements and the localization of equipment. Despite the higher costs associated with high-purity polysilicon for N-type due to their thinner profile, the cost difference can be compensated by lower silicon consumption per wafer.
3.3 Future Prospects: Anticipating a Breakthrough of Over 15% Market Share for HJT Solar Cell by 2025
In 2022, the domestic shipment proportions of different types of photovoltaic Solar cells were: PERC (91.11%), TOPCON (6.29%), HJT (0.6%), and other Solar cells (2.8%).
2024 is set to be a year of significant capacity expansion for HJT solar cells. Following this period, HJT Solar cells are expected to carve out a unique competitive edge in the N-type Solar cell market. The peak phase of mass production is anticipated to occur around 2025, with an estimated market share of 15%.
It is projected that by 2025, the mass production cost per wafer of HJT will undercut that of PERC/Topcon Solar cells, solidifying its position in the mainstream market. Additionally, between 2027 and 2030, the synergistic combination of HJT and perovskite technology is forecasted to drive a significant surge in its market share.
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