Interview: Longi Australia zeros in on 1 GW of shipments in 2021

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Can you give me a quick update as to Longi’s positioning in the Australian market?

I’ve been leading Longi’s Australian operations since March, and we are seeing some amazing numbers. Compared to what we achieved in 2019, we are looking to double our shipments to Australia this year.

And for next year? Can you put a number on it?

I can’t disclose too much, be it will definitely be at least 1 GW.

To what do you attribute the growth?

This year, if we look at the residential market it is quite good. Resi is still experiencing 40% [year-on-year] growth – so we are looking at another 3 GW for residential. At Longi, we want to become one of the major players with relative high market share in the residential space.

In the utility solar farm segment, unfortunately the market this year was not as good as we had expected, it was quite a small year. But in 2021 we expect to see about 3 GW of installations in total, that’s for utility scale. Of that market segment, we are also looking to becoming one of the major suppliers since we have already locked in a few projects to be delivered next year.

I have heard of some pretty remarkable numbers from the U.S. market in terms of bifacial modules to the utility scale segment. How would you describe bifacial module adoption in Australia?

Australia is quite similar to U.S. resi [segment, as it] doesn’t use a lot of bifacial, except for flat concrete rooftops – but it is less than 5% of the market. But in Australia in the utility scale, almost 90% of demand for solar farms requires bifacial technology. In other words, bifacial modules plus trackers is quite standard in the Australian market, in the utility scale.

Longi is taking part in pv magazine Australia’s Virtual Insight on Quality event next Thursday (5/11/2020). It has a focus on degradation in PV modules. What is the message from Longi to its customers in terms of degradation issues?

I always promote to our customers that Longi is very confident on issues related to quality. For some of the key accounts on the market, in particular for utility scale clients, we will offer extended warranty terms even the guarantee on the degradation. We try our best to cater for various needs.

For the residential market we are considering extending our warranty as an option. As a last resort we have a very established warranty claim process in place to ensure high quality after sales service to our clients.

What can you tell me about Longi’s after sales service?

We have a platform that allows for very easy and direct access for our customers – installers, retailers and even end consumers. We promise to respond [to every claim] within 24 hours and we are promoting to close a case within five working days. Everything will be sorted out in a very short time.

What does that mean, to close a case?

We respond within 24 hours and within 48 hours we will present a solution to the customer – either compensation through cash refund or a replacement product.

Why do you feel this is important?

Australians expect a good service level, an immediate response, local support, and a local presence they can trust.

And Longi has a local legal entity to support that?

Longi first came to Australia 2016, actually at the All-Energy Australia event. The local entity was set up in 2019, which is a proprietary limited company that is 100% owned by the Longi Group.

Besides after sales, why else is it important to Longi to have a local entity in Australia?

To operate in Australia, to serve our clients, it is better to have prompt support and local service functions, this is particularly important for our distributors. But it also allows us to provide on-time deliveries and with sufficient local stocks, to help the customer shorten the lead time. Overall, everything is based on the service level, not only on the products. We want to give our customers confidence in the Longi brand and hat is all about the local entity.

Turning back to technology, high-powered modules has been the story of 2020. Longi is bringing out its new 540 W, Hi-MO5 module. Why are these larger, more powerful modules relevant in Australia?

Clients on the market already expect a 500 W-plus module. They want to reduce the LCOE, reduce the BOS, and reduce the project execution time. The condition is that they have to get compatible inverters and trackers.

Longi is going down a slightly different wafer and cell size route than some other manufacturers. The Hi-MO5 uses an M10 wafer size, smaller than the 210mm (G12) side.

Why is that?

If we have a look at the wafer size and how Longi designed this product, it is all about the logistics cost. We designed the product to deliver the best logistic costs in a standard 40-foot container. The M10 cell gives us the most suitable size for the frame for standard logistics.

Another important factor is the compatibility of larger modules with other key components including string inverters and trackers that are currently available in the market. On this side, I should note that Longi, along with other manufacturers, adopt the M10 wafer size to ensure majority of capacity available in the market on the same module size.

If you look at the production capacity for high-powered modules for 2021, there are 60-70 GW to be delivered by those manufacturing M10 wafers. We want to provide security in locking in modules for most investors, developers and EPCs, as we know how difficult it can be even after financial close. Given this, we suggest our client to choose the mainstream product on the wafer size, which delivers buffer time [in which] to make the decision on the module at the last minute – they don’t need to worry about a price change or having to modify the original system design. We want to offer solutions that are convenient for them.

How challenging are these unstable module prices in 2020?

Over the past 3-4 months, module prices have been on a roller coaster, and we understand the high impact this has on our customers. Longi promotes price stability and reliability. We are fully confident that when we quote it means we can deliver. We play fair from the beginning so there are no surprises along the road. It is important for us to have our customers trust and deliver on our promises.

Longi Australia’s Richard Qian will be presenting at pv magazine’s Virtual Insight on Quality event – which is a part of the All-Energy Australia 2020 virtual conference.

The session is taking place on Thursday, No. 5 @ 2pm – 3:30pm AEDT. Register free today.

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