2017 shipment volume topped 103 GW, 50 GW of which was contributed by the five major IDMs (integrated device manufacturers), Jinko Solar, Trina Solar, JA Solar, Canadian Solar, and Hanwha Q Cells, plus two leading wafer suppliers GCL and Longi, according to EnergyTrend. Judging from their expansion plans, each of the aforementioned firms will witness their shipment volume exceeding 10 GW in 2018, together garnering over 50% global shipment share, which underscores the “strong-getting-stronger” trend on the market.
Table 1 World's top five component suppliers by shipment volume in 2017
Shipment volume of Jinko, the champion, jumped by 47.4% to 9.8 GW in 2017, up from 6.65 GW in 2016. It is expected to hit 11.5-12 GW in 2018. In 2018, other leading suppliers will also maintain double-digit growth, boosting their shipment volumes past the 10 GW mark.
Mono- and multi-si components side by side
Suppliers have deployed their capacities in either mono- or multi-si sector according to different market and product focus, which, plus the effect of multiple technology superposition, affects the outcome of the rivalry between the two camps.
In the mono-si sector, Longi was the champion in 2017, in terms of shipment volume, as it dedicates to the production of mono-si products, covering upstream wafers, midstream cells, and components, all on branded basis. Its shipment volume may experience significant growth in 2018.
Total shipment volume of mono-si components reached 32 GW in 2017, accounting for 31.1% of the total, both much higher than 2016 levels despite the popularity of multi-si components. Production volume of mono-si components is expected to jump to 60 GW in 2018, including 28 GW of Longi and 23 GW of Zhonghuan, thanks to their expansion projects.
Table 2 World's top five mono-si component suppliers by shipment volume in 2017
In the multi-si sector, leading multi-si wafer supplier GCL hit the top-five list, also thanks to its dedication to multi-si wafer production. By extending its shipments of branded components, the company will have a chance to hit the top spot in 2018, thanks to a continuously growing downstream segment and new market demands.
2017 multi-si shipment volume topped 70 GW, with share slightly lower than 2016. 2018 capacity will be much higher than 2017's 77 GW, thanks to expanding market demand which will continue to boost shipment numbers, and vigorous expansion plans of multi-si wafer suppliers, including GCL whose shipment volume will hit 24 GW.
Table 3 World's top multi-si component suppliers by shipment volume in 2017
Multiple technology superposition: maximizing component power
Popularity of PERC technology
In 2017, suppliers, in both mono- and multi-si camps, spared no effort in developing PERC process technology. In addition to the inducement of China's "Top Runner Program," suppliers successively designated PERC as a standard process, in order to maximize production performance and efficiency. Moreover, they managed to make some modifications of standard PERC process, such as selective emitting electrode and knotless screen printing, to raise conversion efficiency continuously.
Bifacial, half-cut, and MBB applications
In addition to cell production, suppliers also endeavored to achieve breakthrough in components, as shown in the prevalence of products featuring HC (half-cut) and MBB (multi-bus bar) technologies, as well as multiple technology superposition and even bifacial PERC technology superposition, in PV EXPO, held in Japan in early 2018. It is evident that there will be various technology compositions and changes for components in 2018.
In order to cope with overcapacity problem, various suppliers will endeavor to expand outlets for their products in 2018, notably China which remains the world's largest market. To avoid excessive market concentration, they will have to diversify their product lineup and markets, which is especially crucial for mature IDMs. In order to catch up with the five major IDMs, the two leading wafer suppliers will have to expand their deployment in overall supply chain in 2018, which will be a stage of integration and expansion for them.