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Solar China Exports Analysis

Analysis of Chinese modules exports in 2019

March 3, 2020 PV InfoLink

CN EN

2019 Overview

Growing demand in European and emerging markets

According to PV InfoLink China customs report, China accumulated 66.8 GW of modules in exports—a 60% increase from the previous year’s 41.3 GW. This marked growth was attributed to the end of June 30 installation rush in Vietnam and the execution of PV policies and projects in emerging markets in Latin America and the Middle East, as well as the removal of Europe’s minimum import price (MIP) measures in August 2018, which has since allowed Chinese modules to be shipped without trade barrier to European markets. 

 

China’s top 10 module export markets (2018–2019)

The Netherlands, as a major transfer country, occupied the highest share—or 8.8 GW—of Chinese module exports in 2019. It was among China’s top five export markets for modules alongside Japan, India, Vietnam, and Australia. Europe saw increased module demand last year, having imported 22.8 GW of modules; the figure accounted for 34% of total demand. The Netherlands aside, China respectively exported 3.7 GW to Spain, 3.7 GW to Ukraine, and 1.7 GW to Germany; these countries made the list of top 10 export markets for Chinese modules in 2019. As for the top 20 destinations, these included not just Pakistan, South Korea, South Africa, Chile, Thailand, and Jordan, but also Portugal, Italy, and Kazakhstan, all of all saw domestic demand growth.

 

The top 10 module suppliers remained essentially unchanged

Top 10 Chinese module suppliers (2018–2019)

The 2018–2019 list of top 10 Chinese module exporters were Jinko, JA Solar, Canadian Solar, Trina, Risen, Longi, Suntech, Astronergy, GCL-Si, and Hanwha Q Cells. All these suppliers achieved higher export volumes in 2019 than 2018, with the top five having made the most marked improvements. Overall, the top five exporters accounted for around 50% of Chinese module exporters during the two-year period. There was a small change in the rankings of the year: Longi overtook GCL-Si in the sixth place.

 

Mono PERC modules eclipse multi modules 

Shares of mono and multi modules exported by quarter (2018–2019)

As the chart above shows, mono PERC modules overtook multi modules to dominate overseas markets. Indeed, whereas exports of multi modules declined from 6.9 GW in Q1 2018 to 4.7 GW in Q4 2019, those of mono PERC rose from 1.3 GW to 7.9 GW over the same period. Exports of multi PERC modules also increased over the period; most of them were high-wattage modules shipped by Canadian Solar. Of the top 10 destinations in 2019, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia, and Mexico accounted for a preponderance of Chinese mono PERC modules exported; India and Brazil were the largest importers of multi modules. With advanced technology and growing demand for larger cells, the mainstream 72-cell mono PERC module exported improved significantly in power output in 2019—from 370 W–380 W in the first half of the year to 385 W–400 W in December.

 

The budding n-type module market 

2019 saw adoption of n-type modules large-scale projects, with around 621 MW of n-type modules having been exported in the year. Most of these modules comprised PERT modules from Jinko and TOPCon modules from Jolywood and arrived in Brazil. N-type modules were shipped in large volumes to Oman and El Salvador. 

However, n-type modules compared poorly in market share to PERC modules, whose costs are decreasing and efficiency increasing. So, n-type module exports will improve only fractionally every year. 

 

2019 Trends

Growing demand for larger cell-based modules

 

Quarterly trends for cell size in 2019

Whereas modules assembled with cells sized in M2 (156.75mm) represented the lion’s share, or 86%, of Chinese module exports in 2019, those assembled with cells sized in 158.75mm took a mere 13% of the total. Although modules assembled with G1-sized cells and those made with other sizes of cells comprised a small portion of the exports, their share increased every quarter, indicating growing foreign demand for larger-cell based modules. 

 

Exports of special modules of half-cut, MBB+ HC grew sixfold

 

Exports of special modules of half-cut, MBB+ HC grew sixfold

China’s exports of special modules surged from 2.5 GW in 2018 to 18.5 GW in 2019. Specifically, exports of half-cut modules grew from 2.1 GW to 13 GW and saw an addition of around 2.4 GW of modules assembled with MBB + half-cut cells. Exports of shingled modules also grew from 0.3 GW to 1.6 GW. Clearly, special modules increased in export volume during the 2018–2019 period, suggesting strong foreign demand for such modules.

 

In terms of export volume, Jinko and Risen accounted for the highest volume of half-cut mono PERC modules; Canadian Solar occupied most of the half-cut multi modules; Trina represented the lion’s share of mono PERC modules with MBB + half-cut cell design; and Huansheng Solar, Canadian Solar, and Longi comprised the preponderance of shingled modules. 

 

Bifacial exports increased every month

Exports of bifacial modules had grown every month in Q4 2018 to Q4 2019, with most of the growth taking place in the second half of 2019. Moreover, the bifacial exports achieved higher growth in Mexico, the U.S., Brazil, and Chile over the period. 

China shipped 2.7 GW of bifacial modules in 2019, with Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, and Brazil being the three largest export markets. The cumulative exports of bifacial modules to the U.S. jumped to 337 MW at the end of 2019 after the modules were exempted from the Section 201 tariffs in October. Thus, the U.S. outstripped Egypt to become the fourth largest bifacial importer.
 

 

Export markets for bifacial modules of top five suppliers in 2019


JA Solar, Longi, Jinko, Risen, and Jolywood were the largest bifacial suppliers in terms of export volume in 2019. Most of the 72-cell bifacial mono PERC modules had a power output of 375 W–380 W, which could be raised to 380 W–385 W if they coupled with half-cut cells.

 

Conclusion

Chinese module exports surged in 2019 thanks to healthy demand in European and emerging markets. The competitiveness of module manufacturers depends mainly on whether they can drive costs down and efficiency up. Moreover, the China customs data for December 2019 suggests that 72-cell G1 mono PERC modules assembling with half-cut or MBB + half-cut cells can achieve a power output of 400 W. Obviously, many suppliers offered high-efficiency and larger-wafer based modules to improve their market shares.

As China’s module production volume is hit hard by low utilization rates during the Chinese New Year holiday and various hurdles brought by the COVID-19 outbreak, its module exports this year are expected to slacken, then pick up. The exports may end up being lower than what they were last year. G1 size is expected to become standard for mono PERC modules this year, and MBB + half-cut cells may overtake half-cut cells to become mainstream. Bifacial modules exports to the U.S. increased in the second half of 2019 thanks to their exclusion from the Section 201 tariffs, and Chinese bifacials will continue to arrive in large volumes in the U.S. for as long as this exemption remains in force.

 

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