Mono PERC and Bifacial Solar Modules Poised to take the Lead Over the Next Few Years

Mercom recently hosted a webinar on “Module Technologies and Trends Dominating the Indian Solar Market.”

The panelists discussed the workings of the solar module manufacturing industry and spoke about developments and technologies that can improve the overall efficiency of the module manufacturing segment. They also discussed the global trends in India’s module market and available choices.

The panel included Parag Sharma, CEO, O2 Power; Arul Shanmugasundram, Executive Director, Ayana Renewable Power; Zhichao Yuan, Product Head, APAC, LONGi Solar; Sai Charan Kuppili, Technical Director, Jinko Solar; and Sumit Kumar, Head – Product Management, Vikram Solar.

Priya Sanjay, Managing Director, Mercom India, moderated the session.

According to Mercom India Research, India has approximately 10 GW of solar module manufacturing capacity and around 3 GW of solar cell manufacturing capacity as of September 2020.

Bankability of Solar Module Suppliers

Speaking about the criteria for selecting module suppliers, Parag Sharma, from O2 Power, observed that the module supplier’s financial health is one of the main factors when picking suppliers. “The bankability of the supplier is a must for us. The credibility of module suppliers is very important for us, and we have a quality team that looks into all the aspects related to the quality of the modules.”

Arul Shanmugasundram from Ayana Renewable Power concurred. “We always look for a long-term term relationship with the suppliers. We look for the quality of the modules, and once we sign the contracts, we don’t want last-minute changes in the contract. We want people to honor the contracts. The credibility of the suppliers is another important aspect for us. Last year has been a challenging year for us, but things are bound to improve, and we see a good 2021 for the solar sector.”

Asked about the declining tariff rates and whether it was in anticipation of module prices coming down, Sharma said, “Now things have changed, and technological innovations account for 20-25% of the project cost decision, while capital cost accounts for 75%. People are now forced to go for technological innovations, which are increasing day by day. Cost of capital is now the main driving force, and it has been the main reason behind the drop in tariffs.”

India a Big Market in the Solar Supply Chain

Sharing his views on the big Indian solar market, Zhichao Yuan representing LONGi, said, “The Indian market is a big market for us. India aims to achieve the 300 GW solar target by 2030, and we want to be part of it. Solar is a very price-sensitive market globally, and the same is the case with India. In 2020 we suffered a lot because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the prices of solar glass went up because of the demand and supply gap. LONGi is positioned as the largest supplier of modules globally, and we want to play our part in India’s solar journey.”

Sai Charan Kuppili from Jinko Solar also spoke on similar lines. “India is a top market for us. It is a high-density market, and soon, India will be a big market for mono PERC and bifacial modules. We need to continue with our technological innovations and set new standards for the Indian market,” he said.

Mono PERC and Bifacial to Dominate 

On the technological innovations taking place in module space, Yuan said,  “The future of modules lies in technological innovations. Mono PERC and bifacial are going to dominate the market in the foreseeable future. The heterojunction technology (HJT) and other new technologies will take some time to gain ground in the market. We have received lots of orders for the bifacial modules, and it’s going to become popular in the Indian market as well. It will take some time to become mainstream, but technology is improving, and its benefits will help in lowering the levelized cost of energy (LCOE).”

“Logically multicrystalline modules might attract the customers right now. Presently, 500 Wp bifacial will dominate, but in the post-basic custom duty era, bifacial will take a back seat, and mono PERC technology will be in vogue for the next few years,” added Arul on the new technologies taking shape.

Sumit Kumar from Vikram Solar said, “Right now p-type mono PERC is very popular and n-type is also gaining popularity as there is lesser degradation and better efficiency can be achieved. TOPCON is another technology that is gaining ground and is the one for the future. M6 wafer size will remain in the market, but by 2021, the market will comprise 20% of M6 wafers, 40% of M10 wafers, and 40% of M12 wafers. This would mean an increase in the size of modules and greater module efficiency. In the next two years, mono PERC and bifacial modules are going to be in high demand.”

Stressing on the need for the government to step in and help the domestic solar manufacturing sector, Kumar said, “The competition is global, and we have depended on imports from countries like China, Vietnam, and Malaysia for very long. Things are changing, and in the last few years, the government has taken some decisive steps to bring changes in the domestic manufacturing sector. The optimization of technology is taking place, and this will help to bring down the LCOE. We are planning to develop a 600 MW cell line by the end of this year, and this is in tune with the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the government. The module market is a very price-sensitive market, and the mono PERC and bifacial are getting popular day by day.”

The webinar participants agreed that mono PERC and bifacial would be big for the next two to three years. They also felt that a certain degree of stability in solar module prices would be achieved in 2021.

In a recent article, Mercom discussed the impact of the shift to bigger sized M6 and M12 solar wafers from M2 on the Indian solar sector. The industry believes that the total shift in wafer sizes from M2 to M6 to M12 can become a reality as early as 2021, and manufacturers will have to be prepared for this imminent change.

Click here to view the webinar recording.