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Three trends to watch at SNEC 2020: Market demand, prices, 600W+ modules

August 8, 2020 PV InfoLink


2020 SNEC

The SNEC PV Power Expo, the world’s largest solar trade fair, returns to Shanghai on August 8 for its 14th edition. Despite being postponed to August due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the trade show remains the most anticipated event of its kind in the solar industry.

As China has released the solar policy for 2020 around the Tomb Sweeping Day taking place in early April, the guideline for auction and unsubsidized (grid-parity) projects was respectively published between June and August. After last year’s delayed projects got commissioned during the June 30 installation rush, the Chinese PV market will be busy connecting new projects to the grid in the second half.

This year’s solar policy has remained pretty much unchanged. The Chinese market will be focusing on residential, unsubsidized, and auction projects in the second half. As of June, a total of 26 GW capacity have been allocated through auctions. Taking into account the time required for environmental assessment and administrative procedure, demand from projects auctioned off will mostly manifest at the end of the third quarter. Residential projects, on the other hand, saw lower-than-expected installed capacity in the first three months of the year, and it’s expected that the installation rush of the remaining projects will last until the beginning of final quarter. Moreover, with module prices dropping significantly this year, demand from some unsubsidized projects will emerge in the final quarter.  As a result, the last three months of 2020 will see the highest demand level of the year in China. PV InfoLink projects that the Chinese demand will reach 43.5 GW this year.

module demand forecast_EN

However, the recent explosions at Daqo New Energy and GCL’s polysilicon labs in Xinjiang as well as the COVID-19-induced lockdown in the region have caused a shortage of polysilicon. The knock-on effects were felt by the supply chain, with prices rising across the board. Specifically, the module price hike will drive developers of unsubsidized projects that are less restrictive in terms of investment controlling and grid-connection to postpone their commissioning schedule until next year so they don’t have to absorb price increases. PV InfoLink will watch closely the module price trend and movement of unsubsidized projects; the possibility for unsubsidized projects to postpone for grid-connection until next year may also be lowered. 

Since impacts of the explosions in Xinjiang have rippled throughout the supply chain, solar prices will fluctuate wildly in the second half. One thing to pay attention to at this year’s SNEC is the prices at which buyers and sellers agree to trade at the fair, which will offer a guidance to the price trend in the second half. 

On the product side, manufacturers have launched new larger format modules based on wafers measuring 182mm or 210mm over the past six months. The first day of the event saw high-power modules rated at 600W, 700W, and 800W achieved by applications of larger wafers, high-density techniques, more cell strings, or n-type cells. Clearly, the high-power module trend is taking the PV market into the era of 600W-plus. While the power output is advancing rapidly, the most important thing is which product can deliver module manufacturers and PV plants the best LCOE. Regardless cell technologies or assembly techniques, the rapidly improving cell and module technologies will lead the way for solar development.

In terms of high-density assembly techniques, which play a vital role in the development of larger format modules, leading equipment suppliers XN Automation and Autowell will launch their next-generation tiling machines that are expected to elevate module production lines to the next level. This year will also see innovative module technologies, with many manufacturers showcasing plate-coupling panels or modules that combine two assembly techniques. 

Another highlight to watch is cell technologies, such as HJT and perovskite + HBC cells. We shall also see whether TOPCon equipment suppliers could solve coating and conductive paste issues to drive up cell efficiencies further. Amid the transition to larger format modules, cell technologies play a pivotal role in taking the solar industry to the next stage.  

For more information, stay tuned for our articles on the SNEC 2020.

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