Energy Taiwan 2020: Green energy trading entering new phase; large format trend emerging
October 20, 2020 PV InfoLink
The Energy Taiwan, which returned to the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center on Oct. 14 through 16, showcased the latest development and technologies of solar PV, wind power, and hydrogen, as well as fuel cell and smart storage this year.
Under the green energy goals, Taiwan aims at achieving 20 GW of installed PV capacity by 2025. The country’s cumulative installed PV hit 4.8 GW at the end of July, and the figure is expected to top 5 GW at the end of 2020.
Policy and market developments
Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture announced the amended regulations governing the land use approval process on July 7, tightening rules for solar farms built on all farmland. Under the new land-use measures for solar plants, solar farms occupying an area of less than 2 hectares shall be agricultural land surrounded or interspersed by natural terrain or other non-agricultural lands or solar projects under mid-term goal of 6.5 GW by 2020.
The new measure has jeopardized the development of solar sector in Taiwan. After talking with industry professionals familiar with the matter, PV InfoLink has learned that most county or city governments have suspended the approval process for solar projects under the category are now waiting for the central government for further notice or adjustment. This development will slow the Taiwanese solar market, with the industry’s focus shifting to disused agricultural land and rooftop projects. Against this backdrop, PV InfoLink’s forecast for module demand in Taiwan this year is 1.1 GW.
This year marked the beginning of green energy trading in Taiwan. Following TSMC’s signing of the world’s largest PPA with Ørsted for offshore winds in Taiwan earlier in July, and its goal to join RE 100 to be 100% powered by renewable energy, the renewable energy trading is given a boost. Taiwan’s green policy is gradually shifting from FIT oriented to end-user driven green energy trading and power purchase agreement. Meanwhile, the amended “major electricity consumer clause” is scheduled to be announced by the end of the year and come into force next year. By then, renewable energy is expected to be traded more actively.
With Chinese wafer manufacturers eliminating M2 (156.75mm) and switching production lines from G1 (158.75mm) to produce M6 (166mm) wafers, Taiwanese PV manufacturers are also slowly turning to develop large cells. While G1 remains the mainstream format this year in Taiwan and a few manufacturers produce M4 (161.7mm) cells on a commercial scale, M6 will emerge as the mainstream in the second quarter in 2021.
At present, some production lines in Taiwan can produce M6 cells through modifying G1 lines. At the expo, PV InfoLink has learned that the standard and regulation related to Taiwan’s Voluntary Product Certification (VPC), an equipment certification for high-efficiency cells and modules, will be finalized recently. Given the current progress, Taiwan is likely to commercialize modules based on M6 cells as early as the second quarter in 2021. Taiwan currently registers a PV installation of more than 1 GW every year, and it is expected to witness at least 500 MW module demand in the second half of 2021. Some vertically integrated companies have planned to upgrade all production lines to M6 format. Moreover, M6 cells are now commercially available. Therefore, capacity for M6 is enough to fulfil demand next year.
While M10 (182mm) and G12 (210mm) formats were widely discussed earlier this year, Taiwan’s pace of cell and module development is slow, as Taiwanese manufacturers just began to produce M6 cells and the certification process of VPC takes time. Modules featuring M10 and G12 cells showcased by Taiwanese manufacturers at the trade fair are prototype only; they have no plan for mass production so far.
Half-cut is the most commonly used module technique among Taiwanese manufacturers now, followed by traditional full cell modules. Unlike last year’s edition that featured half-cut modules based on M2 cell, this year’s half-cut modules have adopted G1 cell, with the mainstream power rating sitting at 415-420W for 72-cell modules and 340-355W for 60-cell modules.
In addition to half-cut modules, TSEC, WINAICO, and Gintung showcased full cell modules that are assembled with G1 cells this year.
The large format trend will push modules featuring M6 cells to become mainstream next year. Technology-wise, half-cut + multi-busbars will become a major trend to reduce cell-to-module losses, hot spot, and usage of silver pastes. Although most manufacturers showcased bifacial modules, they are more of a product under development for now because demand is low in Taiwan. A few manufacturers that pursued technology breakthrough and OEM partners displayed tiling ribbon, shingled modules, and narrowed-spaced modules. The module technology applications are as follows:
This year saw significant more applications of multi-busbar in modules than last year’s edition. Among manufacturers that displayed half-cut + MBB modules, AUO’s 12-BB modules have the highest number of busbars, whereas modules exhibited mostly featured 9BB. The mainstream power output of MBB modules ranged from 440-455W for 72-cell modules and 360-375W for 60-cell modules. The power rating of 60-cell bifacial modules is as high as 390W. Gintung also exhibited modules featuring M6 full-cells and multi-busbars.
AUO remained the largest supplier of half-cut + MBB modules in the Taiwanese market this year. However, as half-cut + MBB modules will be mass produced after modules based on M6 cell are awarded VPC next year, half-cut + MBB will become the mainstream technology in Taiwan.
TSEC, WINAICO, and Mega Sunergy exhibited high-density modules in response to demand in foreign markets. TSEC displayed half-cut + MBB, narrowed-spaced modules based on M10 and G12 cells, with power output rated at 540W and 500W. WINAICO exhibited tiling ribbon modules based on M6 cell; the company’s shipments may include modules based on M10 and G12 cells in the future. Mega Sunergy showcased shingled modules.
Taiwan’s domestic demand for high-density modules is unclear. Under current VPC regulations, manufacturers can meet the requirement for power output with existing half-cut technique. So, they are not in a hurry to jump to high-density module assembling now.
N-type and bifacial modules
N-type modules are suitable for Taiwan’s subtropical climate due to lower temperature coefficient. Such cells’ high performance in generation efficiency and bifaciality can bring down cost per kilowatt hour. URE and Motech both mass produce n-type modules, while TSEC is developing such modules. At present, n-type technology is in the early stage of production in Taiwan, while some produce n-type modules with ODM. In light this of, n-type capacity estimate for next year is smaller than 200 MW.
The power gain of bifacial modules used to be a concern among customers. In a forum held during the fair, URE said that the outdoor performance of bifacial modules under condition of a grey concrete floor, grass ground, white floor, and pool is 4%, 6%, 11%, and 5%, respectively, which indicates that bifacial modules do help increase power output with reflective rear panel under specific conditions. However, bifacial modules exhibited by manufacturers haven’t entered mass production in Taiwan because domestic demand is low. Manufacturers that displayed such modules this year include Motech, AUO, TSEC, and Canadian Solar.
Compared with glass-backsheet modules, glass-glass modules are heavier. This factor, coupling with typhoon in Taiwan, increases pressure on the load-bearing of tracking systems. Given the potential costs and risks induced by heavy weight, Taiwanese manufacturers favor glass-transparent backsheet structure. Moreover, as glass prices have been rising continuously, most manufacturers in Taiwan would produce bifacial modules in glass-transparent structure to reduce cost pressure.
At present, Taiwan’s solar growth is mainly driven by FITs. With the green energy trading mechanism looming, end users will gradually replace subsidy to become the underlying force for demand growth in the future. Limited by Chinese wafer manufacturers, next year will see half-cut + MBB modules based on M6 cells becoming the mainstream in Taiwan. Bifacial modules, on the other hand, will remain a technology reserved for future use. In addition to wafer supply, how the VPC regulations will be and when it will be published will impact the development of cell format and module technology. Under the current VPC regulations, Taiwanese manufacturers’ existing technology can meet the requirement. The government should speed up the stipulation of new VPC standard to push Taiwanese cell, module manufacturers to catch up with the pace of global market.
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