How hot is the photovoltaic industry at the end of the year? With carbon neutral and the targets of the 14th five year plan gradually clear, the upstream and downstream are almost busy. A photovoltaic cell supplier told reporters, “some time ago, Trina Solar and Astor sat in our meeting room every day and asked us to arrange delivery.” Another practitioner said that carbon carbon composite materials, crucible and other single crystal furnace accessories are “hard to get”, and the purchasers of the single crystal factory choose to deliver goods in the factory.
Since this year, the photovoltaic industry has experienced a large-scale expansion, involving all aspects of the industrial chain. However, in the view of many people, what needs more attention in the future is that the photovoltaic industry is about to face the switch of technology track. Just as in the past seven or eight years, single crystal technology has defeated polycrystalline technology. In the unremitting pursuit of reducing the cost of photovoltaic power, every link is trying new technologies.
In fact, new technological changes in the photovoltaic industry run through the whole year, which has been fully reflected in the capital market. At the beginning of the year, the heterojunction battery (hjt) suddenly rose, Shanmei international and other stocks showed strong performance; at the end of the year, granular silicon was sought after, and in more than three months, the stock price of Hong Kong stock poly GCL energy soared by more than 300%. Aiming at the new technology, the second tier manufacturers are also looking forward to overtaking.
Granular silicon explodes market expectation
Since September this year, poly GCL has started the construction of a number of granular silicon projects. On September 8, the company’s Jiangsu Zhongneng granular silicon project with a planned capacity of 100000 tons and the first phase of 54000 tons officially started expansion, which is also the largest granular silicon project in the world. On October 18, the construction of poly GCL Sichuan Leshan granular silicon project was officially started.
On the evening of December 10, GCL poly announced that it is expected that by the end of 2020, the effective production capacity of FBR granular silicon will be increased from 6000 tons to 10000 tons.
It’s not easy to get into the market overnight. As early as six or seven years ago, the market predicted that poly GCL granular silicon would achieve mass production of 10000 tons. Why did the existing products become popular after six or seven years? In an interview with reporters, a person in charge of GCL poly said that on the basis of its polysilicon technology with independent intellectual property rights and the FBR technical team and proprietary technical equipment of SunEdison, Inc., which was acquired in 2017, the company has finally made a major technological breakthrough in the production process of granular silicon.
The person in charge told reporters that the company has fully mastered the mature and reproducible large-scale production technology of granular silicon, and its products have been widely verified and recognized by customers in terms of market acceptance. In addition, the existing granular silicon production capacity has achieved continuous and stable production, commercial mass production and market-oriented sales, and the product quality has been optimized and improved by orders of magnitude.
In addition to GCL poly, Shaanxi Tianhong is also a supplier of granular silicon market. The company introduces recsilicon fbr-b (second generation fluidized bed) technology from the United States to produce granular polysilicon, and claims to be the only granular silicon manufacturer with large-scale mass production capacity in China.
In response to this situation, poly GCL responded to reporters that the company is the only enterprise with large-scale, low-cost and high-quality production of granular silicon. “Compared with other enterprises, we have completely different silane technology process and production route. In terms of metal impurity control, our purity has a leading advantage in order of magnitude.”
According to the planning path of granular silicon production capacity provided by GCL poly, the production capacity of Xuzhou base project of the company will reach 30000 tons in the third quarter of 2021, and the production capacity is expected to reach 54000 tons by the end of the first quarter of 2022; the production capacity planning of Leshan project will be carried out in the mode of 4 + 2 + 2. In addition, there are other intentional cities.
According to the data obtained by the reporter, the polysilicon produced by the improved Siemens method accounts for about 95% of the global silicon material market. In contrast, the production capacity of granular silicon is not enough to shake the market position of polysilicon. The reason why the emergence of granular silicon can ignite the market lies in its advantages in production cost, environmental protection process and technological innovation. The cost reduction of silicon material link can actively drive the cost reduction of PV terminal power consumption.
Poly GCL told reporters that FBR granular silicon has the advantages of lower investment intensity, lower production energy consumption and less demand for project personnel compared with Siemens rod silicon. Moreover, the granular silicon product is spherical in shape and has good fluidity, which can better meet the size requirements of re feeding. There is no need for crushing process, so as to avoid loss and reduce crushing cost, and eliminate the risk of introducing impurities in the crushing process.
According to the data disclosed by GCL poly, compared with the traditional process, the FBR process has shorter production technological process, which can reduce the investment intensity by 30%, the production power consumption by 65% and the project personnel demand by 30%. The person in charge further said that in terms of production costs, the cost of poly GCL’s granular silicon is about 30% lower than that of a line of rod-shaped silicon, and there is still room for decline in the future.
Affected by a series of news such as the investment and construction of granular silicon and mass production, the stock price of poly GCL has been strong recently. Since September, the cumulative increase has reached 347.6%, with the highest increase of more than 400%.
Downstream applications determine the future
“We have studied granular silicon, but we don’t think we can run out of it. The mature and stable technology route is improved Siemens method.” When it comes to the view of granular silicon, a person from a mainstream rod-shaped polysilicon enterprise pointed out to the reporter that granular silicon has not yet achieved commercial mass production in the full sense. As for whether the manufacturers can push it to a larger scale, it remains to be tracked to give full play to the expected quality and cost advantages. “We think that there is still a lot of uncertainty. We can’t prove or falsify at this stage, and we can’t deny others.”
According to the public survey summary, there are still some barriers to the production of n-type batteries from granular silicon, which is also the reason why some enterprises are still cautious about granular silicon.
For example, the above-mentioned polysilicon enterprises pointed out that the photovoltaic industry must be more efficient in the future. One direction is the transition of photovoltaic cells from p-type to n-type. “However, n-type batteries have very high requirements for the purity of silicon material. Now it seems that granular silicon can only reach the cauliflower level of polysilicon, which is several grades away from dense material.”
According to the person, the first question that granular silicon manufacturers need to answer is what the future technology roadmap is. “The future trend is that product efficiency will drive product cost reduction, and then stimulate market demand. If granular silicon manufacturers have such a good outlook on the product, they should have a more aggressive expansion scale to seize market share.”
Poly GCL told reporters that at present, the downstream applications of granular silicon are mainly in central and GCL companies, and several enterprises such as Jingao, Longji and Jingke are in batch trial. “The downstream market is very open to granular silicon. After breakthroughs in powder and hydrogen next year, Shangji, Longji, Jingke and Jingao are willing to switch to granular silicon quickly.”
The reporter learned from Zhonghuan that the company has been using granular silicon since 2019, and it is said that the use effect is “not bad”. People from the company told reporters that although the production capacity of granular silicon has been increased, the production capacity has not yet risen, and its cost advantage depends on the actual changes after the quantity is increased. “The cost of granular silicon has an advantage, and the price given to me has an advantage, so I am more willing to use it in large quantities.”
In a recent research report, Andersen Securities pointed out that at present, poly GCL’s granular silicon is less shipped, mainly supplied to central and its own use. Other mainstream silicon chip enterprises are neutral and partial cautious, and the main feedback problems are hydrogen jump, dust and metal. The key to judge whether granular silicon can be replaced on a large scale is whether the marginal trend of downstream large-scale applications can be formed. It is necessary to closely track the downstream large-scale applications except Zhonghuan and GCL.
In response to market doubts that granular silicon can only be adulterated or not compatible with n-type batteries, poly GCL told reporters that in the process of using, all the companies are single furnace pure investment verification, and then use in small batches after the verification is qualified. The future market share mainly depends on whether the production capacity of granular silicon can match the demand capacity of polysilicon.
In addition, GCL poly said that Yunnan Yuze has used granular silicon to make n-type silicon wafers, and the quality of its output is equivalent to that of OCI, a South Korean polysilicon enterprise, slightly lower than that of Wacker, a German enterprise, and better than that of all domestic polysilicon enterprises.
Enter the technology switching period
From the perspective of the whole industry chain, the change of battery technology may become the next hot spot. In the near future, a lot of progress has been made in the field of photovoltaic cells.
In early December, Zhonglai announced that its holding subsidiary Taizhou Zhonglai has made significant progress in mass production efficiency of n-type single crystal batteries. The mass production conversion efficiency of TOPCON batteries produced by Taizhou Zhonglai has reached 24.5%. The company said that it will achieve the target of 25% conversion efficiency and capacity expansion in the next step.
A week later, Aikang technology, which has been working in the field of heterojunction batteries for many years, announced that the first heterojunction battery sample production of its subsidiary, Zhejiang Aikang optoelectronics Changxing base, was officially offline. The cell is of G1 size and MBB technology is superimposed. The efficiency of the cell is 24.59%. This conversion efficiency is only 0.09% higher than that announced a few days ago, but the competition between battery companies is obvious.
“At present, this node has a heated debate about which new technology can be developed in the next stage.” A person from an A-share manufacturer specializing in photovoltaic cell manufacturing told reporters that in the photovoltaic industry, there will be a big replacement in three years. “Perc battery came out in 2017, and now perc is about to face the next time node of new technology replacement.”
The person further pointed out that the conversion efficiency of perc battery has reached a high level, and new technology is the only way to achieve a big breakthrough. Talking about the recent breakthrough in battery conversion efficiency, the person said, “we are very happy to see this result, because others have made this technology and verified it to be feasible, and we have the corresponding technical reserves to go along their way, which is more meaningful than a simple theoretical debate. In addition, if their verification results are not successful, we have other routes in reserve. “
Shanmei international is an enterprise that has invested a lot in the field of heterojunction cells. At present, the company has started the first phase 3gw project of 10GW high efficiency heterojunction (hjt) solar cell industrialization. By the end of October, the construction land of phase I project had been delisted, and the construction EIA of the project unit had been completed.
The reporter learned from aixu that cross back contact battery (IBC) can form a new combination with heterojunction battery (hjt) or TOPCON. Therefore, the company’s core view on the evolution of battery technology is, “since IBC can be combined with hjt or TOPCON, we think IBC will be safer and can have both ends.”
It is understood that by the end of this year, aixu will have 36gw of perc battery capacity, and will experience a ramp up in the first quarter of next year. In the company’s new perc battery capacity, the company has adopted the large silicon chip technology. In view of the new capacity situation next year, the company said that it will no longer use perc technology in the future, but other technology routes. Although the life cycle of perc battery will not end soon, it can be seen that battery enterprises are undergoing profound technological changes this year and next.
For the technology switching of photovoltaic cells, Wang Ge, the new chief analyst of CSCIC, pointed out that the last seven or eight years of photovoltaic industry was a cycle in which single crystal beat polycrystalline, and there will be new opportunities in the next seven or eight years, that is, the conversion of battery technology from p-type to n-type, “we judge that there will be new n-type battery companies.”
Wang Ge believes that in the original p-type battery circuit, perc battery benefits from the development trend of large-scale silicon wafer. For battery enterprises, the cost of single watt is lower, so as to achieve higher profits. Another logic that needs attention is the battery switching from p-type to n-type. “Now, n-type heterojunction battery will take over the task behind p-type perc battery, and perc can achieve 23% conversion efficiency But if we want to further achieve 25%, we need heterojunction to take on this mission
Editor in charge ajx