Solar Builder

JAN 2018

Solar Builder focuses on the installation/construction of solar PV systems. We cover the latest PV technology (modules, mounting, inverters, storage, BOS) and equip installers/contractors with tips and tools to make informed purchasing decisions.

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SOLARBUILDERMAG.COM | 21 Thin-film's moment First Solar is ready to manufacture and sell a ton of PV, officially unveil- ing its first functional Series 6 thin- film photovoltaic modules from its Perrysburg, Ohio, production line. The new line is expected to be pro- ducing commercial product by early in the second quarter of 2018, and will have an annualized output of 600 MWdc when operating at full capaci- ty. This marks a major milestone in a factory retooling that began just under one year ago, and included approxi- mately $177 million in capital invest- ment. As of writing this, we do not know what the Section 201 Trade Case out- come will be, but none of it will affect First Solar because thin-film is exempt from the case. This helps because its production facility in Vietnam is also doubling production capacity to about 2.4 GWdc. This, in combination with Perrysburg and facilities in Kulim, Malaysia, will give First Solar a total manufacturing capacity of approxi- mately 5.4 GWdc of Series 6 by 2020. The Series 6 modules differ from Series 4 mostly in size. The large area Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) glass-on- glass module measures 2 meters by 1.2 meters and is expected to produce 420-445 watts. The conversion effi - ciency is still about 17 percent. It has an excellent temperature coefficient, which is to be expected with thin-film modules. The size increase (Series 6 is more than three times the size of the Series 4 panels) will lead to lower installation costs, and may make man- ufacturing easier as well. Analysts expect those to come down to about 25 cents a watt, after the company hits full production in about a year. Another entrant to watch in the tariff-free, thin-film market to watch is Calyxo USA — a subsidiary of Germany-based Calyxo GmbH that recently joined SEIA and is ready to step up in the U.S market. "Due to the production location in Germany, we can supply to our cus- tomers worldwide, but the Calyxo is basically owned by U.S. shareholders, so we will be more involved in the U.S. market," says Sascha M. Wallantin, sales manager, North America of Calyxo USA Inc. The production costs per watt are lower than the production of conven- tional crystalline solar cells and mod- ules according to Wallantin. These modules work best in hot regions because of the better temperature coefficient. "Where crystalline modules lose performance, we can continue to pro- duce with full power," Wallantin says. Calyxo has 65 MW of capacity and is offering a completely new partner- ship and community solar program, with the goal of providing stability, financial security and stable growth for its partners. The company recommends its modules for residential, community and commercial solar projects on up to 5 MW. It is also looking at repow- ering older PV plants as one of its U.S. opportunities. the efficiency of the front side exceeds 21.2 per- cent. Light reception of the backside can bring significant additional energy yield. If the back- side power yield increases the overall module efficiency by 10 percent, the power of bifacial PERC module can reach 330 watts for a 60-cell module (300 watts from the front side), and 396 watts for 72-cell module (360 watts from the front side). Combined with low degradation mono PERC technology, Hi-MO 2 offers first- year degradation below 2 percent, and the aver- age annual degradation below 0.45 percent for 30 years — significantly better than conven- tional modules. Meanwhile, the bifacial PERC modules come with double-glass lamination, which improves PID resistance and can extend the module life beyond 30 years. Bifaciality isn't a new idea, but LONGi's ver- sion is setting records: The National Center of Supervision and Inspection on Solar Photovoltaic Products Quality (CPVT) issued an independent test report showing that LONGi Solar's bifacial PERC monocrystalline cells achieved a world record bifaciality of 82.15 percent. For comparison's sake, the bifa- ciality of bifacial PERC cells in the market is about 75 percent. "Bifacial mono PERC inherits all of the advantages of mono PERC, including high power and higher energy yield," the company says. "In addition, it can harvest energy from the rear side of the module, making system economics even better and delivering signifi- cantly lower LCOE. Right now, we are in the product introduction phase and have already seen strong interest from customers. If bifacial PERC modules can consistently demonstrate significant rear side gain (10 to 15 percent or even higher), the market will react quickly and favorably." LONGi Solar thinks its high efficiency mono PERC modules would be a fit for EPC contractors and developers in all different applications, including utility, C&I and resi- dential rooftops. "In particular, the system cost savings with high efficiency mono PERC modules could be much more significant on C&I and residential rooftop projects," the company says. More broadly, it sounds like there is an even lower LCOE to be achieved through continued PERC development. "In the near future, we think mono PERC (including bifacial mono PERC) will be the best solution to deliver lower LCOE," the company says. "Current HVM produc- tion PERC cell efficiency is 21.5 percent. We have demonstrated well over 23 per- cent for mono PERC cell efficiency on our R&D line, and further improvements will likely continue. In parallel, we are working on a few technologies on the module side: multi-busbar, half-cut cells, as well as shingling process. With these advancements, we think 400 watts can be achieved on 72-cell format in the next couple of years." Chris Crowell is the managing editor of Solar Builder.

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