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Solar China Exports Analysis

China export volumes remain stable in the first three months of 2020

May 26, 2020 PV InfoLink

CN TW EN

 

Module exports surge in March

China’s exports of modules stood at 8.1 GW in March, 2.5 times higher than the volume exported in the preceding month. Behind the significant growth are logistics and transports returned to normal, utilization rates of manufacturers resumed to higher level, and manufacturers were shipping out orders delayed from February.

Chinese module export volumes

In terms of export volume, Jinko, JA Solar, Trina, Canadian Solar, and Longi were the top five module makers in March, accounting for a combined 50% of total exports. In March alone, the volume exported by Jinko, JA Solar, Trina, and Longi exceeded the combined volumes of January and February. Comparing with the corresponding period last year, only Canadian Solar, Trina, Risen, Hanwha Q Cells, and BYD exported more modules this year among the top 10.

Comparison of module exports by top 10 manufacturers

Although the pandemic escalated overseas in March, China’s module exports to Europe, Latin America, Japan, and India were little impacted back then; instead, it doubled the volume exported in February. This indicated that project developers were drawing module inventories at that time. It’s worth noting that Indian demand for mono PERC modules has been rising, from 73 MW in February to 253 MW in March. The share of mono PERC has grown from 21% to 43.2% over the two months.

1Q20 exports stay flat from last year at 16 GW

China’s aggregate module exports was 16 GW in the first three months of the year, the same as the figure reported in the corresponding period last year. The Netherlands and other European countries, as well as Brazil, Japan, and India contributed the majority of exports, with each of them having more than 1 GW of cumulative volume. On the supplier side, Jinko, JA Solar, Trina, Canadian Solar, and Longi has each exported more than 1 GW of modules in the first quarter of the year. Specifically, Jinko exported nearly 2 GW. 

Overall, impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt by the export side in February mainly. After experiencing a slack in February, exports picked up in March as transportation returned to normal and overseas projects continued to draw inventories in March. So, the total export volume in the first quarter has remained the same.

Mono PERC featuring wafers larger than G1 account 70% of the export

Mono PERC modules exports totaled 10.3 GW in the first three months of the year. Of the 10.3 GW, the export volume of modules based on sizes larger than G1 (158.75mm) was 7.3 GW, accounting for 70.9% of total mono PERC exports.

Share of mono PERC module by size

As of March, modules featuring larger wafers were mostly based on G1 format, followed by M6 (166mm). The former’s cumulative exports were 6.1 GW and latter 851 MW.

Growing exports of multi-busbar + half-cut modules

*Special modules refer to those applied additional techniques.

The cumulative export of special modules in the first three months of the year was 9.3 GW. Of which, half-cut modules accounted for the majority, followed by multi-busbar (MBB) + half-cut (HC). Half-cut modules accumulated 6.1 GW of exports, representing 65.7% of total exports. MBB+HC modules accumulated 2.5 GW of exports, accounting for 27.5% of the total. In terms of export volume, the top 3 special modules of the first quarter were half-cut mono PERC, MBB+HC mono PERC, and half-cut multi-Si modules, which respectively stood at 4.5 GW, 2.1 GW, and 836 MW.

Share of Chinese modules exports by technology

The above graph of module technology trend showed that while half-cut modules dominate the share of special modules, the share of MBB+HC modules has been increasing significantly. The share of half-cut modules decreased from 70.4% in the last quarter of 2019 to 65.7% in the first quarter of this year, whereas the share of MBB+HC modules grew from 19.7% to 27.5% over the same period. This trend suggests that market demand for special modules is shifting from half-cut modules to MBB+HC modules.

High-efficiency modules

*High-efficiency modules include all n-type modules, shingled and high-density modules, as well as mono/ multi PERC modules featuring 72 cast mono cells with 400Wp+ and 60 cells with 330Wp+.

As of the first three months of the year, high-efficiency modules have accumulated 5.3 GW of export volumes, with 2.8 GW, or 52.8% of which being exported in March.

The cumulative export of mono PERC modules stood at 4.9 GW in March. The mainstream power output of 72-cell modules was 400W, 405W, and 430W, while that of 60-cell modules was 330W, 335W and 340W. Among these modules, 72-cell, 430W modules and 60-cell, 340W modules were assembled with M6-sized cells. However, the vast majority of mono PERC modules were assembled with G1-sized cells, accounting for 58.6% of total exports. As for multi PERC modules, the mainstream power output of 72-cell layout was 400W and 420W. Unlike mono PERC, the majority of multi PERC modules were assembled with M6-sized cells.

N-type modules have only accumulated 120 MW of exports by the end of March due to slowed inventory draw. 72-cell PERT modules accounted for the majority of n-type modules exported; the mainstream power output was 385W.

Shingled modules accumulated 358 MW of exports, with the majority of them 72-cell mono PERC modules assembled with M2 (156.75mm) cells. The module power output of these modules ranged from 400 to 415W.

In terms of high-density modules, the export volume was low in March. There were some 66-cell and 80-cell, plate-coupled mono PERC modules assembled with 1/3-cut M2 or G1-sized cells. There were also 66-cell and 78-cell, tiling modules assembled with MBB+HC cells based on 163mm wafers. March also saw small export volume of n-type modules coupling with high-density techniques, most of which were 66-cell, tiling PERT modules with MBB+HC cells.

G1-sized high-efficiency cells dominate 60% of exports

China exported 3 GW of cells in the first quarter of the year, with 2.2 GW of which mono PERC cells. The majority of these cells come with a wattage of 5.38W, 5.35W, and 5.54W. M2 was the most popular format, representing 60% of total mono PERC exports, followed by G1, which accounted for 40%.

*High-efficiency cells are n-type and mono PERC cells that can achieve more than 22.1% of efficiency rate in all formats.

The cumulative export of high-efficiency cells stood at 600 MW in March, most of which were mono PERC cells. However, the share of high-efficiency cells by size is quite the opposite from that of overall cells, with 60% of which comprising mono PERC cells made from G1 wafers and 40% high-efficiency cells made from M2 ones. The most popular wattage of high-efficiency cells was 5.57W, 5.59W, and 5.4W.

Conclusion

Exports in March alone exceed the combined volumes of January and February as transports and utilization rates in China returned to normal and inventory draw continued in overseas markets. Although shipment volumes were lower than expected in January and February, the surge in March helps balance the overall export volume in the first quarter, making the aggregate export volume same as that in the corresponding period last year.

Module manufactures are shifting to size beyond G1. Although G1 dominates the exports thus far, the share of modules based on M6 format is increasing. It’s expected that G1 and M6 will remain the mainstream sizes this year. 

While modules assembled with half-cut cells accounted for the majority, exports of modules assembled with MBB+HC cells have grown noticeably. As MBB+HC capacity has been ramping up this year, it may replace half-cut to become the mainstream technology of exported modules by the end of the year. 

Several leading manufacturers have unveiled modules featuring 500Wp+ recently. These modules all couple tiling technique with MBB, but vary in cell size and design. The new launch of modules saw 180mm and G12(210mm) in size and third- and half-cut in design. Moreover, they are mostly in 50-cell or 72-cell layouts. With manufacturers selecting different cell sizes, designs, and cells numbers, the competition on module power output featuring 500-580W is about to kick off. PV InfoLink will watch closely the export volume of high-density modules.

 

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