Trina Solar’s Head of Global Cell and Module Business Helena Li spoke pv magazine at the recent SNEC fair in Shanghai about the challenge of oversupply in the solar power industry. Li said the company is considering opening a plant in Europe and expressed optimism about future cost and price reductions.
Helena Li: We weren’t really late, probably only later than JinkoSolar. We were in no rush to invest immediately, as the return on technology plus stability and costs were still competitive only probably in the last quarter of last year. Longi also reluctantly began to announce a move towards n-TOPCon this year. This is because everyone is waiting for production equipment to mature. So now we see that the devices are OK, and then the wafer can be at least 10 µm thinner, which can be a big cost saving for n-type TOPCon to compete with p-type PERC.
How much TOPCon capacity does Trina Solar have at the end of 2023?
We expect to reach more than 40 GW of TOPCon cell capacity this year. Work has begun on Phase II of our 15 GW monocrystalline silicon ingot project for n-type products in Xining, Qinghai Province. Work on its 10 GW has also started of-type high-efficiency cell and 10 GW n-type module project in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, to enter production in the first half of 2024.
Is Trina Solar considering other technologies such as heterojunction, interdigitated back contact (IBC) or eventually perovskite-silicon tandem?
Yes, we are considering new developments, although probably the n-type TOPCon would take longer than people think, as the HJT itself may not be the best solution from what we see. We are finding more interesting perovskite silicon tandem technologies and are currently working to achieve more than 28% module efficiency in our R&D department. However, mass production may take time.
Do you expect oversupply and concentration given the current expansion plans of most manufacturers?
Oversupply is a natural challenge for our industry. The one who is stronger gets stronger and stronger every year. And with technology and supply chain complexity and this geopolitical situation, consolidation is inevitable. We see costs and prices coming down because we want to go there. We are now seeing many new players, some of them non-solar, jumping in. So I think it’s also challenging and interesting to see that you always have to survive, whoever comes. So I don’t think it’s a problem.
Is Trina Solar planning to start production abroad?
We are actually actively working with our European customers and partners to build a factory there, but we will only move forward if the project can be competitive. Of course, it is important for us to know whether we receive support from the EU or the municipalities. On the other hand, many European customers tell us that they want traceability. When we tell them they should pay a little more for these premium products, they say they will think about it and the others disappear. As I said, a lot depends on the competitiveness of the European factory.
Would it be possible to invest in EU or US solar energy production without incentives?
No, not without incentives.
Which Markets Will Drive Solar Energy Growth in 2023?
China will again be the largest market area. I just heard that S&P predicts solar demand could exceed 136 GW in China this year. The growth should partly be due to new public tenders on the scale of electricity, but we also expect strong growth in the distributed generation segment.
Which emerging markets might do particularly well for Trina Solar this year?
The development of renewable energy has been accelerated by the global energy change. The global solar industry is full of challenges and opportunities in 2023. Looking further into the future, Trina Solar predicts that the world’s new installed capacity could reach 1,344 GW in 2035, which is about five times higher than in 2022. Trina Solar’s customers are valued in every market segment. We have scenario-based solutions for both p-type and n-type products for residential, C&I and large-scale power plants. Trina Solar is a leading supplier of total intelligent energy solutions consisting of intelligent solutions for monitoring, energy storage and multi-energy systems. It helps every market.