With travel restricted, many missed the opportunity to attend the world’s biggest solar trade show, the SNEC, in Shanghai. The event took place on August 8-10 and was a largely “all Chinese” affair. pv magazine’s Vincent Shaw and Calvin Chong were on site and spoke to key supplier’s about their business strategies and technologies.
From pv magazine Global.
pv magazine: What new products and solutions did Suntech present at this year’s SNEC?
Tang Jun: Suntech launched its new generation of ultra-high power PV modules, named “Ultra”. This new series includes a variety of modules with large-size wafers, including 166, 182 and 210 mm, while the maximum power exceeds 600W, at 605W. We have also introduced casting mono and heterojunction (HJT) module products. The conversion rate of our HJT products can reach 21.5%, and the efficiency of our high-power modules can reach 21.3%.
What’s Suntech’s geographical reach?
Suntech has always focused on overseas markets and we are currently selling modules in more than 100 countries worldwide. Our brand is well-known in our most significant markets, which include the European Union, Japan, India and Australia.
In terms of market share, 80% of our products were exported in 2019. However, we have now passed the watching period and entered the whitelist of mainstream investors, which has seen our domestic market share increase significantly. We have also begun to participate in bidding processes for large domestic projects.
How important is the US market to Suntech?
The current U.S. policy has had a great impact on our business there, meaning we have had a hard time. Saying that, we are going to set up a new branch in the United States and try some new ideas to participate in this important PV market.
Last year, Suntech entered the Kazakhstan solar market. What advice do you have for companies looking to enter such emerging markets?
When entering emerging markets, we have found that some companies are eager for quick success and easy money, thus focusing on immediate benefits. I want to call on industry participants to fully respect local market rules and characteristics when entering new markets, and to protect the healthy development of the market through cooperation and healthy competition.
What is the current situation for Suntech’s multi-crystalline products? What do you think about the future PV markets for both mono and multi products?
Suntech is still shipping multi-crystalline modules. Although the current proportion of mono is increasing, and multi-crystalline products may comprise less than 20% this year, we believe multi-crystalline products will not vanish. As a key member of renewable energies, one of the most important characteristics of solar PV power lies in its cost performance. And multi-crystalline modules still have cost advantages. Furthermore, in terms of energy consumption in module production, multi-crystalline still has a clear advantage.
Its overall market share has dropped in the past two years, as the popularity of mono products increases, mainly due to support in the industry chain and the Chinese state’s guidance. Despite this, it is undeniable that the energy consumption advantage is conducive to environmental protection. As long as the R&D and support of multi-crystalline products can be increased on the cell level, the conversion difference between mono and multi will be reduced. In addition, multi-crystalline products will continue to have a market in some specific regions and environments. At Suntech, we still have multi-crystalline production capacity. While the proportion will be reduced in the future, it will not disappear completely.
What is the current module capacity of Suntech? Do you have any expansion plans?
Presently Suntech has a module production capacity of 6 GW, and we aim to reach another 3.5 GW of new capacity at Changzhou by the end of this month. We have new plans for next year, but they are still under wraps. These capacities are currently compatible with 180 mm+ size silicon wafers. In the future, short boards will be added in the stringing process to fully match 210 mm size silicon wafers. Regarding capacity, the nominal production capacity is actually the most conservative indicator. In actual production, it can be adjusted according to the order to achieve an actual production volume greater than the nominal production capacity. Suntech’s philosophy is to develop its own production capacity step-by-step.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic influenced Suntech’s operations?
In general, the pandemic has greatly impacted us. At the end of February, after the Spring Festival, Suntech had undertaken a series of recruitment and other tasks. They were all affected by the pandemic and postponed, just like the resumption of work. The other aspect was logistics, which were impacted on a far great scale. After the domestic outbreak was brought under control, the overseas markets were affected. Especially in India and the EU, logistics have been greatly affected. Through the efforts of all our employees, we still achieved sales growth in the EU; however, in some overseas markets, issues still exist.
What are you currently focusing R&D on?
We have an R&D team working on new products, including design improvement for the current trend of high-power modules. We are also focusing on our N-type HJT modules, because of the differences in the packaging process, compared to traditional modules. In addition, we are doing a lot of work on cast-mono modules, and have studied some other front technologies, like overlapping. Saying that, Suntech has very high requirements for product quality, stability and reliability, so the company is conservative in its use of new technologies. We will not promote products on a large scale for immature technologies.
Author: Vincent Shaw
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