High-tech company has the power to succeed
Xining City, on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, is gradually winning the European high-end back contact solar cells market thanks to its interdigitated back contact (IBC) batteries, an official with the Huanghe Hydropower Xining Solar Power Co affiliated to the State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) of China revealed.
"We deployed our tech research on IBC solar cells in 2016 when President Xi Jinping paid a visit to our company in August that year and set a goal for us to make a breakthrough in the photovoltaic industry," said Song Biao, deputy head of the IBC Solar Cell Manufacturing Branch of Huanghe Hydropower Xining Solar Power Co.
An ordinary back contact solar panel has its positive electrode on the front and its negative electrode on the back, whereas an IBC solar panel has both of its electrodes on the back. As a result it can remove the silver frame that is usually on the front surface and leave more space to absorb sunshine.
By the end of 2019, the solar power company succeeded in setting up its first IBC batch production line, which was also the first of its kind nationwide. It has remained the single company in Qinghai Province in western China to boast IBC solar panel manufacturing technology.
"Back in 2019, the global IBC solar panel mass production market had only two players: the California-based SunPower and us," said Song.
"Other competitors, due to tech or cost reasons, such as South Korea's LG, all stopped IBC solar panel production."
The IBC battery, compared with the current market-leading TOPCon battery, a double-sided solar panel widely used in ground photovoltaic power stations, costs more and is more tech-intensive. Its application scenarios are used mainly in building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) and for export to Europe for some small town villas to generate self-powered electricity.
"Due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, EU is now pricing its electricity very high," said Song. "People there are very willing to buy our IBC solar panels, in spite of the fact according to export statistics in the first half, we priced it twice the price of a TOPCon battery."
Compared with a SunPower IBC battery that goes through 21 procedures, an IBC battery manufactured by Xining Solar Power Co undergoes a streamlined 11 procedures. It is both cost-effective and well-designed.
"Especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the EU high-end BC battery market, which used to belong to SunPower, was taken over by us," said Song.
The annual production capacity of the company on IBC solar panels in 2019 was 200 megawatts, a rational deploy due to the still limited market application scenarios of the panel.
In 2022 the company managed to work out the TBC (tunneling oxide passivated back contact) solar panel technology, an even newer generation of solar panel technology compared with IBC solar panels.
The Xining (National) Economic and Technological Development Zone, where the industrial leading Huanghe Hydropower Xining Solar Power Co is also situated, is cultivating a hundreds of billions of yuan capacity photovoltaic industry cluster in its administered four industrial parks – the Dongchuan, Nanchuan, Ganhe and Bio-tech industrial parks.
While introducing leading enterprises like Asia Silicon, SPIC, Gokin Solar, CSI Solar, Lihao Semiconductor, Jinko Solar and Trina Solar, among others, the industrial zone is forming a whole silicon photovoltaic power industrial chain. This ranges from polysilicon manufacturing, monocrystalline silicon manufacturing, to silicon slicing, solar panel manufacturing and assembling, and photovoltaic supporting applications.
Its annual capacities of polysilicon, monocrystalline silicon, silicon slicing, solar panel manufacturing, and solar panel assembling have reached 145,000 tons, 102 gitawatt, 5.6 gitawatt, 5.7 gitawatt and 5.9 gitawatt, respectively.
Trina Solar, in its Nanchuan Industrial Park, has operated successfully its Phase-One 20 GW monocrystalline silicon manufacturing line, and its 5 GW silicon slicing and solar panel manufacturing and assembling line in February.
In addition, the company formed its own whole silicon photovoltaic power industrial chain on August 1, the first of its kind in Qinghai Province.
Jinko Solar, also based in the Nanchuan Industrial Park, reduced its construction time of a Phase Two 20 GW monocrystalline silicon manufacturing project efficiently to within 97 days.
Asia Silicon, based in Dongchuan Industrial Park, has reached a world leading level in researching and large-scale manufacturing of 48 pairs of polysilicon reduction furnace.
Ganhe Industrial Park, an honored industrial park built about two decades ago, is noted for its annual capacity of 130,000 tons of industrial silicon powder, 70,000 tons of electronic grade polysilicon, 6,500 tons of photovoltaic brackets and 80,000 sets of PV thermal field crucibles.