PV learning rates show lower costs ahead; Annual inverter shipments rise 18%

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PV price drop set to continue as cells improve

PV prices will continue to fall based on historic learning rates of over 23% in the coming years, due to improvements in wafer and cell performance, advances in bifacial cells and improved layouts, according to the latest annual Photovoltaic Roadmap (ITRPV), published by German engineering industry group VDMA.

This implies selling prices will fall by over 23% for every doubling in cumulative PV shipments.

The ITRPV summarizes over 100 parameters along the crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV value chain, using insights from 57 leading international PV component suppliers.

Monocrystalline silicon (mono-Si) wafers will represent 75% of the market in 2020 and this share will grow in the coming years, the report said.

By 2030, multi-crystalline silicon (mc-Si) wafers will represent only 5% of the market, it said.

Wafer sizes will continue to rise and efficiencies of PERC p-type mono-Si modules are forecast to rise from 203 W/m² in 2020 to 225 W/m² in 2030, the report said. N-type cell concepts could be 5 W/m² higher, it said.

Heterojunction technology (HJT) modules will achieve area efficiencies of 210 W/m² in 2020 and will outperform other c-Si module types to reach close to 240 W/m² within 10 years, it said.

Trina Solar's new large module certified at 516 W

Trina Solar's new 500 W module has been certified by German independent testing group TUV Rheinland at a power output of 516 W and 600 W models are on the horizon, the Chinese group announced April 24.

Trina started commercial production of its new "Vertex" large module on March 18 and shipped its first order on March 27, the company said.

“With the development and improvement of the industry chain, especially the improvement in glass supply capacity, adding another column of cells to the existing five-column layout design can increase the Vertex module’s power output to more than 600W," Yin Rongfang, Vice General Manager and EVP at Trina Solar said in a statement.

Rising PERC+ cell conversion efficiency combined with optimized module design and installation will drive further increases in power output, Rongfang said.

"This provides the direction and path for the iterative development of PV modules, which will further drive the continuous decrease in the balance of system (BoS) and levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of PV systems,” he said.

Global inverter shipments rise 18% in 2019

Global PV inverter shipments grew by 18% in 2019 as US developers safe-harbored inverters to meet tax credit deadlines and replacement activity climbed, Wood Mackenzie said in a new report.

The top five inverter vendors-- Huawei, Sungrow, SMA, Power Electronics and Fimer-- retained around 56% of the global inverter market, Wood Mackenzie said. The top 10 suppliers retained a market share of around 76%, it said.

                                   Global inverter shipments in 2019

                                                               (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Wood Mackenzie

The COVID-19 outbreak has severely disrupted solar supply chains and delayed new projects. Analysis group IHS Markit now predicts annual global PV installations will fall 16% this year to 105 GW, the research group said March 31.

Amid COVID-19 lockdowns, inverter suppliers have been working hard to maximize output.

SMA's inverter orders were strong before the crisis and is maintaining full output capacity, Ulrich Hadding, CFO of SMA, told New Energy Update last month.

The company still expects to sell 14 to 15 GW of inverters this year, compared with 11.4 GW in 2019, Hadding said.

The pandemic will "certainly have an impact on demand over the next three to four months, after which we expect a strong recovery," Hadding said.

Power Electronics, the largest supplier of inverters to US utility-scale projects, is also maintaining its 2020 US outlook, at 12 GW, a similar level to 2019 when early safe-harbor orders to meet tax credit deadlines boosted order numbers.

Reduced transport and supply chain options are increasing inverter costs and this will lead to slower falls in prices than seen in previous years, suppliers warn.

"As PV inverter prices are already at low levels, IHS Markit forecasts price declines of 10% year on year...in some years historically, price reductions have exceeded 20%," Cormac Gilligan, an associate director at IHS Markit, said.

"The planned decline of our sales prices might soften a bit, for specific products in certain countries we might even see price increases," Hadding said.

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