Jan Enno Bicker has served as the CEO of REC Group for almost three years and they’ve been anything but boring. In that time, the company has transitioned its Singaporean production lines almost entirely to heterojunction technology and the company has been sold to India’s Reliance New Energy Solar. With the market now entering a period of PV cell and module oversupply, Bicker says he is confident of the REC value proposition.
pv magazine: The REC Alpha Pure-R series is the new module on display here in Munich and we’re getting a first sneak-peak of the Alphas Pure-RX. Both take the split junction box and module concept, pioneered by REC in 2015 with the TwinPeak, to its obvious conclusion; with the module divided in four. What do you believe sets it apart?
Jan Bicker: First of all, it is a heterojunction (HJT) module. We are a very strong believer in HJT technology. We are absolutely convinced this is the future technology and the true innovation in cell technology. We see TOPCon as a simple successor of mono PERC. HJT is for us the real pioneering technology.
You have higher potential advantages on efficiency – TOPCon is going to max out much earlier that HJT will – and you have less manufacturing process steps at lower temperature, around half of the steps. You are more future proofed for tandem technology, because you have perfect passivation.
And we also believe there is an advantage on wafer thickness. We believe we can go much, much thinner because we use low temperature processes – there is no soldering.
The new module is an extension to our Alpha HJT line which we mastered since 2019. It is a beautiful product, very high power, with up to 470 W [for the Alpha Pure-RX]. And we have received a lot of interest. For a residential module, the watt-class, the low degradation, and the very low temperature coefficient really counts.
pv magazine: What are some of the cell efficiencies that you are achieving on your production lines?
JB: We are getting cell efficiencies of around 25%. We have a clear roadmap to go higher than that and will go higher in the next few months.
pv magazine: What I was referring to with the TwinPeak was when REC pioneered the split junction box, and now there are four!
JB: You have to take into account the size of the wafer, the form factor. It is a G12 wafer that we are using. We are one of the very few manufacturers doing residential on G12 wafers – they are large and you need to account for the form factor so that it matches the residential format.
pv magazine: So, you have changed the orientation [from horizontal to vertical] of the wafer as well…
JB: That is how we make it work.
pv magazine: I think when the split junction box came out in 2015, REC was the only company doing it. Then, four or five years later everyone was doing it. Do you expect that to be the case with this module?
JB: We strongly believe that G12 is the future and the M10 is going to be an “in-between step.” Other manufacturers will face similar form-factor challenges than we did. We think that we’ve found a good solution. Whether other people will copy it, I’m not sure. But they have done it many times in the past.
pv magazine: Turning to the market dynamics, it is a challenging dynamic in 2023 compared to 2022, is that right?
JB: This year the big change is that TOPCon is entering the market, especially here in Europe. Along with that, prices are declining. We have basically moved from an undersupplied market to an oversupplied market. This makes the business environment more difficult.
But as we have done in the past, with a leading technology and by producing a very clean product, it has always worked well for us in the past – so we are optimistic.
pv magazine: Do you feel somewhat insulated because you are in the rooftop segment?
We are a relatively small player. In our space, you go where your advantage is. In our case that is power density. This means that the more restrictive the space, the more value our high-power density, high efficiency products deliver. We are going where our products have the highest added value for the consumer.
pv magazine: You mention a “very clean” product, and the Alpha Pure and Pure-R are lead free. How much more demand are you seeing from buyers for sustainable modules?
JB: A lot of people who are behind solar investments, big pension funds and so on, are making ESG a big and very, very important topic.
The number of ESG requests from customers and potential customers doubled in a year. And the related volume which is behind these requests grew by a factor of eight. So, you see that these subjects are becoming much more important.
It is coming from distributors, EPCs, project companies, these are the companies we are directly dealing with. But since the distributors are asking about the ESG reporting, the push is also coming from the market – otherwise there would be no reason for them to come to us.
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