PV industry standardization drives M10 modules
PV InfoLink has updated its analysis of product market share based on different sizes of silicon wafers, indicating that, with M10 modules having a share exceeding 60% in the first half of the year, the overall figure for the format in 2022 has increased to 58%.
With the analysts estimating the market share of 210 modules at just over 20% for the same period and, with some major players choosing to base investment in new technology cells on M10 (182 mm), the trend would suggest its continued growth to achieve mainstream status.
Market share expectations for M10 products have increased several times since the launch of M10 and G12 modules in 2020. Initial analysis suggested that use of M10 products made upstream and downstream matching easier to achieve, leading to a slight advantage in early comparisons. ≥ G12 products have a large-scale cell capacity layout which, over time, may result in the format being able to take advantage of equipment capability to win greater market share, although such a prediction only considers manufacturing capacity rather than an analysis of the technology and application of the product.
Easier to install than M12 solar modules
Some leading industry players, represented by LONGi, Jinko and JA Solar, believe M10 products have clear advantages in terms of reliability, manufacturing, packaging, installation, system design and electrical safety, citing application in numerous projects during the past two years as the basis for this view:
The M10 format has maintained an advantage not only in silicon wafer yield, but also in efficiency and yield of PERC cells. In the case of TOPCon cells, the gap between the manufacturing yield of G12 and M10 has been further widened.
Portrait packaging is considered to be inconvenient at a project site, particularly for the secondary transfer of modules, with the advantages of the landscape packaging enabled by M10 modules recognized by many.
In terms of manual installation, workers generally feel 1.3-meter-wide modules to be too wide and heavy, resulting in fatigue and a reduction in installation efficiency. Statistical results also indicate higher breakage rates for larger modules.
Lower total costs
LONGi believes that the M10 format can also reduce costs during the manufacturing process. Larger modules based on a G12 wafer do not necessarily reduce costs at module level due to higher expenditure on the wafer and module bill of materials (BOM). At the system level, the M10 module can achieve lower total costs compared with its larger size equivalent when considering cabling and tracker related expenditure.
For cabling, the total cost is at its lowest when module current is between 14 and 15A, which is the working current of the large-size bifacial module. Cabling costs decrease as the module’s maximum working current increases, but resistive costs increase on a linear basis under this scenario.
In the case of trackers, the limitation is tracker length. With a 1P tracker, larger sized modules will reduce the number of strings from three to two, meaning the total power carried by a single tracker is lower and the cost per watt is higher. With a 2P tracker, larger modules will eliminate one string of modules. The total power carried by the tracker will be equivalent to that of a large-size module, but there will now be a string of modules arranged on separate sides of the main axis, leading to power loss due to mismatch.
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The joint initiative has come at a time when the once standard M1 wafer size (156.75mm x 156.75mm) is being phased out by major wafer producers in China with large-area wafers such as that adopted by a large number of companies, initially driven by the likes of JinkoSolar to adopt the 158.75mm x 158.75mm wafer size as it suited existing cell manufacturing equipment and wafer handling limitations.
However, leading mono-wafer producer, LONGi Green Energy Technology and major merchant solar cell producers Aiko Solar and Tongwei Group started offering 161.75mm x 161.75mm. Large-area wafers of 166mm x 166mm followed shortly after.
Rivals split over large-area wafers
Then in late 2019, competitor Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor (TZS) officially launched the largest wafer sizes to date in sizes of 205mm x 205mm and 210mm x 210mm, dubbed M12. They are produced from 300mm diameter mono ingots, used in the semiconductor industry.
At the time SMSL member Risen Energy had already announced 500Wp modules featuring M12 wafers and soon after TZS unveiled the M12 wafers, SMSL member, Trina Solar also announced it would be launching PV modules using that size.
At SNEC 2019, Trina Solar and many other PV manufacturers had settled on the 158.75mm wafer size due to manufacturing line compatibility and module dimensions and weight (glass/glass) versions to operate with minimal issues with the latest mounting system and single-axis tracker designs.
However, Trina Solar has recently announced the global launch of ‘TrinaPro Mega,’ the latest version of its PV utility-scale complete turnkey product solution featuring modules with power output exceeding 500W, notably its ‘Vertex’ ultra-high-power module, which launched earlier in 2020. https://www.pv-tech.org/products/longi-solars-hi-mo-5-series-module-offers-gallium-doped-wafers-and-Smart-so
TrinaPro Mega’s single-axis tracker system has been specifically designed for a new era of larger and higher output modules for downstream PV power plant projects.
But it is currently unclear which large-area wafer size SMSL member GCL-SI will adopt, although sister company GCL-Poly has been closely tied to TZS on large-area mono wafer manufacturing.
Not surprisingly, the team in the M10 standardization effort have highlighted that without a new common standard there would also be an inevitable increase in manufacturing costs for auxiliary materials such as glass, whilst also making downstream selection and installation processes far more complicated.
In last weeks PV Tech’s TechTalk Series webinar with JA Solar, highlighted at length the various wafer sizes on the market and what these sizes meant to PV power plant projects as well as launch their DEEPBLUE 3.0 modules, which will use the newly formed M10 (182mm x 182mm) large-area wafers.
In a ‘soft’ launch of LONGi Solar’s HI MO5 module in late May 2020, the SMSL touted 180mm plus wafers as part of achieving 540Wp performance.
The issue then is when will M10 wafers be used in high-performance modules?
JA Solar said that it expected to begin production of its DEEPBLUE 3.0 modules in the third quarter of 2020 with an anticipated production capacity of 14GW. The company has made a number of capacity expansion announcements since the beginning of 2020, including plans to expand its monocrystalline silicon ingot capacity by 10,000MT at its subsidiary in Xingtai Economic Development Zone, Hebei province, China.
In many respects, M10 wafers used in PV modules are expected to start ramping to volume production in the fourth quarter if 2020 and become widely available in the first-half of 2021.
Please note, LONGi Solar has now officially launched its HI MO5 module series. PV Tech’s product review can be seen here.