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Solar industry outlook in 2024: manufacturing will be reshuffled, more players emerge on the application side

In 2024, under the promotion of domestic and international low-carbon development, energy reform and other strategies, the solar industry will still maintain a good growth trend, the speed of technology iteration is further accelerated, and the intensity of market competition is increased due to changes in supply and demand, and backward production capacity and insufficient competitiveness capacity will be quickly cleared.

Maintain a strong growth momentum

With the rapid decline in the cost of solar power generation, and the domestic and international consensus on the development of renewable energy, looking forward to 2024, the solar industry will maintain a strong growth momentum.

Domestic and foreign markets accelerated expansion, driving the scale of the industry to continue to maintain rapid growth. In 2024, according to the “Sunnylands Statement on Strengthening Cooperation to address the Climate Crisis” reached by China and the United States on November 15, 2023, according to the calculation that the installed capacity of global renewable energy will be tripled by 2030, the average annual size of the global solar market in the next eight years will be about 500GW, and China’s solar market is expected to be about 220GW.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates, the next eight years the global solar annual market size can reach 700GW. It is expected that in 2024, the global and China’s new PV installed capacity will reach 200GW and 420GW respectively, and the domestic PV manufacturing industry and export scale will still maintain a growth momentum of more than 30%.

The market share of N-type high-efficiency cell modules has increased rapidly, and different cell technologies have diversified. In 2024, with the gradual expansion of the planned capacity of N-type cells, as well as the downstream market demand for N-type cells, the market share of N-type cells will rapidly increase, from nearly 25% in 2023 to 50%, and will rapidly increase to 80% in 2025, becoming the mainstream of cell technology.

With the gradual improvement of cell conversion efficiency, the adoption of rectangular chip technology and other advanced packaging technologies, the maximum production module power will exceed 700W.

At the same time, different N-type cell technologies are competing to develop. The TOPCon cell, which can realize the full coverage of household, industrial and commercial distributed and ground power station application scenarios, has become the route for enterprises to compete for layout, accounting for 84% of the total production of N-type cells.

HJT cell also has an active layout of specialized manufacturers, and issued a larger expansion plan, which is expected to account for 12% of N-type cell production in 2024; BC cells benefit from the strong promotion of Longi and Aikosolar, and its existing and planned production capacity will exceed 55GW, which is expected to account for 4% of N-type cell production in 2024.

The manufacturing side will be reshuffled, and more market participants will emerge on the application side. In 2024, the coexistence of new advanced production capacity and old production capacity at the manufacturing end will inevitably bring about a price war, and the price of solar products is expected to remain low, but it also means that backward production capacity and insufficient competitiveness of production capacity will be quickly clear.

Taking TOPCon cell as an example, enterprises need to integrate more than a dozen complex processes and continuously improve and iteration on key process technologies, and finally achieve the balance of conversion efficiency, yield and non-silicon cost indicators, which requires cell manufacturers to accumulate deep experience in technology research and development, production and management.

New players entering the cross-border lack of technical reserves, production capacity landing, climbing to mass production there are many variables, in this round of volatility is more likely to be eliminated, head enterprises will also use technical advantages to open the gap between the second and third line enterprises. In addition, after a significant decline in supply chain prices, many manufacturers have little profit room left at this stage, and some new capacity plans have been canceled. More cancellations of expansion plans are expected in 2024.

The expansion of overseas solar manufacturing capacity has accelerated, but the landing remains to be seen. According to incomplete statistics, by the end of 2024, overseas module production capacity will grow by at least 78% to 270GW relative to the beginning of 2023, which will change the competitive pattern of the past Chinese modules almost exclusive market.

It is worth noting that, considering the amount of capital investment, technical difficulty and other industry entry barriers, the current overseas expansion plan is highly concentrated in the module link, the cell has a small amount of expansion plans, but compared with the modules, there are still insufficient upstream silicon materials, silicon wafers are a minority.
For these newly entered cell and module factories, it is still difficult to completely get rid of the dependence on the Chinese supply chain in the short term of two to three years, and affected by local costs, approval processes, policies, etc., the production capacity landing time remains to be observed.

According to the August 2023 report of SEIA, at present, the new or expanded solar capacity in the United States is mainly claimed, and only a small number of solar modules and a very small number of inverter capacity are put into construction.

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