According to IRENA statistics, the cost per unit of electricity of photovoltaic power generation has dropped by more than 85% on average between 2010 and 2020. This has reached the level of “parity” with traditional energy generation. By 2023, the photovoltaic industry is facing a new round of technological revolution, which will further reduce the cost of photovoltaic power generation and once again promote the global photovoltaic revolution.
After long-term technical iterations, monocrystalline PERC cells have become the mainstream technology in the photovoltaic industry. In 2015, PERC completed the commercialization verification, and the cell mass production efficiency exceeded the BSF bottleneck by 20% for the first time. This marks the official entry into the expansion stage. At present, the mass production efficiency of PERC cells in the industry has generally exceeded 23%. It is getting closer and closer to its theoretical limit of about 24.5%.
So, is there already a better production technology route in 2023? Can the photoelectric conversion rate of solar panels be further improved? Can the cost of solar systems drop further? The answer is yes! ADNLITE will also reveal to you the trend of solar panel production technology routes in the next 10 years!
The N-type Era Begins
2021 is the year of the inflection point of battery technology change. The only theme of the photovoltaic industry is to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Due to its high conversion efficiency, N-type batteries have gradually entered the stage and been accepted by people.
Perc Factory Line
The difference between the so-called P-type and N-type batteries is actually very simple, mainly due to the different positions of the two.
- P-type Silicon Substrate Solar Cells: diffuse phosphorus on P-type semiconductor materials to form N+/P-type structures. The diffusion process is simple and the cost is low, and currently occupies the mainstream market of solar cells. But the highest conversion efficiency has a bottleneck. PERC
- N-type Silicon Substrate Solar Cell: Boron is implanted on the N-type semiconductor material to form a P+/N-type structure. As a high-efficiency battery, it has high minority carrier lifetime and no light-induced attenuation characteristics. But the manufacturing cost is higher. TOPCon, HJT
N-type TOPCon and HJT are representatives of emerging high-efficiency battery technologies that have received the most attention in recent years. Previously, mass production was not possible due to cost issues. In 2022, leading companies in component-side integration have successively launched large-scale production and expansion actions for TOPCon. This marks the “first year” of large-scale mass production of N-type technology batteries.
TOPCon Factory Line
The advantages of TOPCon technology are:
- Selective collection of carriers can be achieved. This plays a critical surface passivation role.
- There is a “pinhole” effect on the back of the TOPCon battery, which brings good conductivity.
- The metal electrodes are not in direct contact with the silicon-based material. This further reduces series resistance, improving fill factor and conversion efficiency.
- The structure of the TOPCon battery can transmit light on the back, and it directly has good double-sided power generation capability.
The theoretical efficiency of 28.7% of TOPCon batteries far exceeds that of P-type batteries, and the current mass production/highest efficiency exceeds 24.5%/25% respectively. And it has the advantages of low attenuation, high double-sided rate, low temperature coefficient, etc., and the power generation gain effect in the terminal power station is obvious.
TOPCon is compatible with the existing PERC production line, and the transformation cost for a single GW is about 50 million yuan. Faced with the pressure of large-scale PERC production line equipment depreciation accrual, upgrades and renovations prolong the service life of equipment. Superimposed on SMBB technology and the advancement of localization of silver paste, the advantages in improving efficiency and reducing costs are more obvious. It is expected to be a cost-effective route choice in the next 2-3 years.
N-type Battery Cost Advantages
Due to factors such as silicon materials, silicon wafer thinning progress, and non-silicon costs, the cost of N-type TOPCon silicon wafers is 0.66 yuan/W. 0.03 yuan/W higher than PERC.
The cost of TOPCon is 0.08 yuan/W higher. The cost is 0.03 yuan/W higher mainly due to the consumption and price of silver paste. The total of equipment depreciation and non-silicon cost is 0.05 yuan/W higher.
The cost of TOPCon integrated components is 0.05 yuan/W higher. With the increase in wattage per unit area of TOPCon modules, the cost of related auxiliary materials can be reduced. Non-silicon components have an advantage of 0.03 yuan/W.
Overall, the production cost of TOPCon integrated modules is 0.05 yuan/W higher than that of PERC. In the short to medium term, the cost advantage of TOPCon is higher than that of HJT. Since TOPCon’s integrated production capacity has room for cost reduction, TOPCon in the second half of the year is expected to be equal to PERC.
N-type Solar Cell Premium Advantages
For every 0.5% increase in the efficiency of N-type TOPCon modules, the area-related BOS cost will decrease by 0.03 yuan/W. According to the current efficiency improvement of TOPCon modules by nearly 1%, it is estimated that the premium brought about by the efficiency improvement will be about 0.05 yuan/W on average. The low attenuation of TOPCon modules increases the power generation by 2.2%, and the corresponding module premium is 0.08 yuan/W. N-type TOPCon modules also have the advantages of higher bifaciality and lower temperature coefficient. It can drive the gain of power generation efficiency, thereby bringing a premium on the component side.
Summary of The Advantages of N-type Solar Cell
Looking at the advantages of superimposed conversion efficiency improvement, low attenuation, low temperature coefficient, and high double-sided ratio, it is estimated that TOPCon modules can bring a premium of over 0.13 yuan/W. With the continuous improvement of TOPCon battery conversion efficiency, TOPCon’s battery efficiency and cost advantages have emerged. This will further enhance the competitiveness of components in the market.
Currently, at least half of the over 300GW PERC production lines in the industry can be upgraded to TOPCon. With PERC production expansion coming to a standstill, TOPCon battery production capacity will continue to be released in 22-23 years.
Generally speaking, HJT battery is more advanced than TOPCON technology. Compared with P-type batteries, HJT has undergone structural changes. TOPCON is more like tinkering with existing technology, while HJT is more of a revolutionary change. It can even be said that TOPCON is an intermediate product in the transition period from PERC battery to HJT. For now, TOPCON and HJT are fairly evenly divided. However, with the development of technology, the advantages of HJT may gradually expand. It can be said: “TOPCon wins in the present, while HJT wins in the future”.
What's Your Advice for Buying Solar in 2023?
The cost to be considered for installing a solar system: solar panels, other solar system accessories, solar panel attenuation, solar panel life, power generation stability, etc.
- The price of ordinary factories is about 25% lower than that of brand factories. Monocrystalline solar panels produced by common factory PERC long-term production lines still have great advantages. (Click to view our cost-effective Perc factory line monocrystalline silicon solar panels.)
- If you must choose a solar panel of a big brand, we recommend using a double-sided solar panel from the TOPCON factory line. (Click to view the top 10 Chinese solar panel brand manufacturers) Although the price of the double-sided solar panel itself will be a little more expensive than the solar panel produced by the PERC production line. But considering the attenuation, lifespan and stability of power generation of solar panels. The double-sided solar panels produced by the TOPCON factory line will have a greater premium.