Looking back at the PV market in 2018, we see micro module technologies maturing in development and moving on to mass production, with modules no longer limited to a single design as before, but rather continuing on the path towards diversification in 2019. The same situation is spreading towards and may be glanced from the Si wafer and cell segments at supply chain upstream.
Bifacial (Cell) Modules to Bring About the Next Revolutionary Shift in Production
As the demand for bifacial modules grows day by day, the demand for its main component, bifacial cells, grows along with it. EnergyTrend, a division of TrendForce, has compiled data to produce a graph showing the price trends of superior high efficiency standard and bifacial cells (>21.5%) in the first half of 2019 (graph 1) for non-Chinese overseas markets (left) and Chinese markets (right).
Graph 1: Price Trends of Superior High Efficiency (>21.5%) Standard and Bifacial Cells Worldwide for 1H19
(Left: Overseas (non-China), USD/W; Right: China, RMB/W)
A comparison of both left and right graphs show that since 98% of all superior high efficiency bifacial cells come from Chinese manufacturers, China’s domestic demand have a convenience advantage over overseas markets (due to being a local market), and prices for superior high efficiency bifacial cells are better able to withstand downward price pressure than overseas markets are. Price trends for superior high efficiency bifacial cells in the first half of 2019 are a 0% change for China’s markets (from 1.31RMB/W to 1.31RMB/W) and a 4.37% decline for other overseas markets (from 0.183USD/W to 0.175USD/W).
From this, we can see that price differences between superior high efficiency standard and bifacial cells will change depending on the balance reached between supply and demand. Demand is high and concentrated in China’s markets, giving quite frequent price fluctuations. Other overseas markets, however, do not require these products as much as China for now, with prices rather stable and fluctuating less frequently as a result. We see that price fluctuations for standard and bifacial products are affected precisely by market acceptance.
Suppliers to Maximize Module Area, with Large-Sized Si Wafers Becoming the Main Focus
Besides the change in cells as a result of the development of bifacial modules, Si wafer suppliers upstream are bringing up the idea to enlarge Si wafer sizes in hopes of meeting market demand for a higher module output power, possibly achievable through, for example, adjusting cell pitch within module packages.
Around 20 years ago, PV cells were originally mass produced by 4-inch (later extended to 5-inch) fab processes, moving on to become the 156.75 mm x 156.75 mm M-series wafers in 2013. For Si wafer suppliers, large-sized wafers may reduce production costs while raising output power. Suppliers have thus began development of and supply the market with large-sized wafers for this very reason.
The price trends for different Si wafer sizes are quite similar to those for cells mentioned above. Theoretically, different sized wafers will exhibit a difference in price, but demand remains to be the key factor determining market price fluctuations. Judging from the price trends of China’s mono/multi wafers in the first half of 2019, though different-sized wafers necessarily exhibit a difference in initial market price, that difference may be diminished amid tightening demand, as evidenced by the gap between the prices for large-sized and normal wafers in China markets, narrowed as a result of tightening demand in May (as shown in graph 2).
Graph 2: Price Trends of Mono/Multi Wafers Worldwide for 1H19
(Left: Overseas (non-China), USD/Pc; Right: China, RMB/Pc)
Thus, the price changes in the above two PV products both indicate that buyers have more options when products become more diversified, and that the variables between buyer and seller to consider in shifting market conditions become complicated as a result of that diversification; product prices depend on market demand and market acceptance instead of its own true value.