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TOPCon technology to dominate as costs fall below mono PERC, analysts say

The Global Solar Market Outlook 2023 Webinar hosted by Solarbe Global brought together solar energy experts from Exawatt, a UK-based consultancy, to discuss the current state and future outlook of the global solar market.

The webinar covered a range of topics, including key trends in technology, cost, global manufacturing, end-demand forecast, and new module releases.

One of the key takeaways from the webinar was the shift towards TOPCon technology as the dominant technology in the market.

TOPCon COGS falling below mono PERC COGS--Screenshot of the presentation of Alex Barrow, Head of PV at Exawatt
Screenshot of the presentation of Alex Barrow, Head of PV at Exawatt

Alex Barrows, Head of PV at Exawatt, said that TOPCon Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) for leading integrated manufacturers is now very similar to that of mono PERC. He predicts that module COGS for bifacial TOPCon will be ~0.6 ¢/W below bifacial mono PERC by the end of 2024.

As the market continues to grow, the demand for solar modules is also increasing, leading to a need for more efficient and cost-effective technology. TOPCon technology offers the necessary features for solar modules to meet the growing demand.

Barrows discussed the potential for heterojunction (HJT) to compete with TOPCon but highlighted that it would require significant technical advancements, such as copper plating and reducing the use of indium, to reduce costs and achieve cost-per-watt parity.

While IBC technology has the potential to be a major driver of the industry in the future, it is harder to know at the moment due to the lack of information available about its production, which is being done in-house, said Barrows.

Cell technology: market share forecasts--Screenshot of the presentation of Alex Barrow, Head of PV at Exawatt
Screenshot of the presentation of Alex Barrow, Head of PV at Exawatt

Screenshot of the presentation of Alex Barrow, Head of PV at Exawatt

“TOPCon expansion plans for 2023 and 2024 greatly outstrip HJT capacity plans,” stated Barrows. “TOPCon capacity due online by the end of 2024 is now 2.6 times that of HJT, up from 1.8 times in our Q3 market update”.

During Barrows’ presentation, the topic of manufacturing capacity outside of China, specifically in the US, was also discussed.

The US government’s Inflation Reduction Act offers manufacturing incentives that should make both integrated and module-only U.S. manufacturing cost-competitive with Southeast Asian manufacturing, said Barrows. However, labor and depreciation are the key drivers for higher COGS for US ingot and wafer manufacturing versus Southeast Asia.

Except for the US, several other countries and regions are looking to expand or establish PV manufacturing capacity. While there is room for growth of non-Chinese manufacturing capacity, China will likely remain the dominant force in PV manufacturing.

Moving on to end demand, Molly Morgan, Senior Researcher at Exawatt, presented a short-term end demand forecast, which is built based on a country-by-country or region-by-region analysis. The forecast predicts strong growth in PV demand, with approximately 330 GW of installations expected in 2023.

Morgan also discussed recent trends in Europe and the US, highlighting that despite an inventory build-up in Europe in 2022, it is still plausible that installations in Europe will continue to grow in 2023. In the US, disruption due to regulations caused a bottleneck in installations in 2022, but growth in PV installations is expected to resume in the near future.

End demand forecast for the solar PV industry--Screenshot of the presentation of Molly Morgan, senior research analyst at Exawatt
Screenshot of the presentation of Molly Morgan, Senior Research Analyst at Exawatt

Morgan projects that in 2022, the rate of module overproduction was approximately 25%, up from about 15% in 2021.

The presentations are followed by a Q&A session which covered a range of topics, including the competitiveness of TOPCon, HJT, and IBC technologies, the prospects for developing perovskite solar cell technology, and the challenges facing countries and regions trying to establish local manufacturing capacity.

Click to watch the recording of the webinar

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