SNEC 2020 Wrap-Up II: Large formats, high module power output
August 13, 2020 PV InfoLink
Large format modules
Modules unveiled at this year’s SNEC mostly feature cells measuring 182mm or 210mm to boost power output. Several manufacturers even showcased ultra-high power modules rated at 600W, 700W, and even 800W. Most new products applied tiling or narrowed-spacing techniques to drive up module power rating. Moreover, added-cell modules have become common among manufacturers this year. 2020 saw companies competing to produce high power modules with applications of larger cells and different layouts at the show.
PV InfoLink’s survey found that size selection varies among mono PERC module manufacturers participating in the event this year: Jinko, Longi, Canadian Solar, Haitai, CECEP, and DMEGC showcased only products based on 182mm format, while Trina, Risen, Huansheng, GCL, Yingli, Tongwei, Akcome, Seraphim, and Saiwei Solar exhibited products based on 210mm format. JA Solar, Suntech, Astronergy, Talesun, and Eging launched products based on both formats. This shows that there are quite a few manufacturers that adopt 210mm despite issues revolving yield rates, deliveries, and application in PV plants for cells bigger than 128mm.
Comparing to SNEC 2019 where paving, narrowed-spacing, tiling, and plate-coupling techniques were introduced, there was no new assembly technique this year. Most modules exhibited this year coupled the aforementioned techniques with different sizes and numbers of cells. However, applications of technologies have become more mature with Jinko and Trina’s high-density modules entering commercial production this year. Most manufacturers exhibited modules assembling larger cells that applied high-density techniques.
In terms of power rating of modules exhibited at the show, 182-mm modules mostly feature 590W, 78-layout, 550W with 72-layout and peaks at 600W. 210mm-modules are either in a 1/3 or half-cut cell configuration and they come with a variety of cell numbers. JA Solar brought its modules to 800W by applying an 80-cell format in a 1/3 cut cell configuration. Trina achieved 660W by using a 66-cell format. Overall, most manufacturers adopted 50 to 60-cell layout regardless the number of cut-cells due to limitation in module lengths and their power output peaks at 615W only, which is slightly higher than 182-mm modules.
Among module manufacturers that adopted 182mm cells, only Ht Solar’s plate-coupling modules are assembled with 1/3-cut cells; the rest of the manufacturers cut cells into half to reduce current and lower resistive power loss caused by hot spot. In addition to using different number of busbars and assembly techniques, the number of cells assembled also vary among manufacturers: 66-cell modules feature 495W, 72-cell modules feature 540W-550W, and 72-cell modules feature 590W-595W.
210mm-module is significantly larger than those based on 158.75mm, 166mm, and 182mm formats. So, manufacturers that use 210mm cells combine different cell layouts with various numbers of cell in configuration.
The trade show saw 50/54/60/80-cell, 1/3 cut layouts and 50/55/60/66-cell, half-cut layouts. Among them, JA Solar’s modules applied 1/3, 80-cell layout to reach 800W; Tongwei assembled shingling cells to achieve 780W. Trina’s 66-cell, half-cut modules are rated at 660W, Huansheng’s shingled modules are rated at 635W, Risen, Suntech, and Astronergy also launched high-density modules that are rated beyond 600W.
Efficiency remains the key index amid manufacturers’ advancement in module power output. PV InfoLink has learned that modules featuring an efficiency beyond 21% mostly apply shingling, plate-coupling, tiling, or narrowed-spacing techniques. In addition, some manufacturers achieve high efficiencies through applying half-cut cells, high-efficiency cells or cells made with non-destructive process.
Different from conventional rooftop solar panels, building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) systems are integrated into the building envelop and part of building components, allocating the module price and installation cost to the building costs. BIPV products focus on appearance, color variety, reliability, endurance, and lead-free feature. Unlike previous editions where more thin film modules were exhibited, this year saw more silicon BIPV modules. To drive efficiencies up and costs down, integrating perovskite will become one option in the future.
With decreases in land area for PV plants, Europe’s high requirement on building energy consumption, and emergence of Tesla’s Integrated Solar Roof system, applications of BIPV products became more diverse this year. Longi has officially entered the BIPV market with the launch of “LONGi Roof” brand that targets utility-scale PV. Jinko, on the other hand, introduced BIPV products featuring colors, namely black, blue, purple, red and green. Sunport launched MWT-based modules without busbars and ribbons to keep module surface uncovered and maintain its aesthetic value. Talesun’s products feature an enhanced safety function by integrating AI with power control system.
While demand for BIPV modules is policy driven, it will take a long while for BIPV modules to be commercially available as the technology has to meet the standard of building materials and the certification system is not yet complete.
Since it’s still hard to tell whether narrowed-spacing or tiling technique will become dominance, module equipment suppliers all introduced machines that are compatible with different sizes. These machines can be switched to narrowed-spacing, tiling, or other techniques. Moreover, they are compatible with all kinds of ribbons as well as 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 design or even more variants. In fact, compatibility of cell sizes ranging from 180-210mm has become a standard for module equipment.
The S-4000 machine unveiled by XN Automation is compatible with tiling and narrowed-spacing techniques and works well with both 182mm and 210mm cells. The new machine, which have a capacity of welding 3,600 cells per hour, can string weld cells cut in half, third, and fourth without losing production efficiency. Autowell introduced its brand-new MS100B stringer machine, which can accommodate tiling and narrowed-spacing techniques. The machine is compatible with cell size ranging from 156mm to 210mm and it can string weld 6,400 half-cut cells per hour. The LDDS3600B stringer machine launched by Lead Intelligent Equipment is compatible with MBB+HC and plate-coupling techniques. The machine also accommodates cell sizes ranging from 156-220mm. The company is clearly paving its way for even larger format in the future.
The maximum power output of 182mm-modules exhibited at the show can reach 600W, while the power output of mostly common 60-cell, 210mm-modules displayed this year peaks at 615W, which is not significantly higher than that of 182-mm modules.
In terms of the selection of number of cells and layout, manufacturers that adopt 182mm format mostly assemble modules with half-cut cells in 72 or 78 layout, while those use 210mm format combine 1/2 or 1/3-cut cells with various cell layouts. However, how to maintain a balance between the number of cut-cells and module layout will be a main focus because half-cut technique still faces hot spot problem and 1/3-cut technique has to solve current overload issue.
Some manufacturers were still uncertain about whether they should adopt 182mm or 210mm at SNEC. Given PV glass bigger than 1.1 meter will remain a bottleneck in capacity until next year, real production of 182-mm and 210-mm modules with six cell strings will not be materialized this year.
Narrowed-spacing technique has become the mainstream for large format modules this year as it has no patent and crack issues. Equipment suppliers focus on compatibility to meet customers’ requirement on various sizes and module techniques. BIPV products, on the other hand, focus on appearance, reliability, endurance, and lead free. However, it will take a while for BIPV products to become commercially available due to issues revolving building materials and certification.
For more information, stay tuned for our articles on the SNEC 2020.
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