Bridging the technology chasm with our HCT platform
A vast majority of PV cells being made in the world still use the low-cost p-type (multi- or mono- crystalline) Si based Solar 1.0 technology, with an annual production capacity greater than 60 GW. The price for such products has continued to decline, due to enormous scaling and overcapacity. However, PV efficiencies are capped at 18-19%, and the module output at ~300W. A higher cost embodiment called PERC is able to improve performance somewhat to 20% efficiency.
On the other hand, for the higher performance, n-Si based Solar 2.0 market there is a severe under capacity, and demand is growing faster than production capacity. This technology has evolved over time, starting with B-diffused junction into n-Si with interdigitated back contact. This was followed by a thin-film junction based HIT™ (Panasonic) technology which holds high PV efficiency records in the industry.
While it will be logical to expect the production capacity to transition from Solar 1.0 to 2.0, this is not happening due to a deep technology chasm. It is not possible to transition the p-Si factories into n-Si production, because the latter requires a more complex process technology and a different equipment set.
With one exception – Sunpreme’s unique HCT thin-film PV platform has been able to bridge the chasm by changing the role of Si substrate from a diffused p-n junction element into an inactive substrate for a thin-film based floating junction.
The HCT platform drives a multi-generational Efficiency and Cost reduction roadmap
Back in 2012, we commercialized our thin film based PV junctions consisting of amorphous n-i//i-p films sandwiching a p-type MG-Si substrate with cell efficiencies of 14-16%. This platform included double glass, frameless modules. Next, in 2013 we were able to utilize the same equipment set, but a different process sequence to make 19% mono-facial cells with thin-film amorphous p-i//i-n junction on n-type substrates, but with a reflective back contact consisting of AZO/Al/NiV. This was the first demonstration of any factory being able to produce both Solar 1.0 and Solar 2.0 product back to back without changing the equipment set.
In 2014, Sunpreme introduced a Bifacial Solar 2.0 product based on the ultra-thin film amorphous Si junctions still using the common HCT platform. We were able to implement this ultra-thin film junction technology
across three product generations. This was a third generation high performance Bifacial cell where the back side reflective metallization was replaced with a TCO and metal collectors. The front side efficiency increased to 22% range. The backside cell efficiency was measured at ~21%, resulting in a Bifacial coefficient of 0.95.
Going forward, we expect our module level effective efficiencies to continue their upward trajectory to 24% and 26% at module level. And, thereafter, we forecast a paradigm shift with new 6th generation superstructures over the HCT platform that will enhance efficiencies into 28% range. All these improvements are planned with manufacturing-worthiness as a primary boundary condition. And, they will lead to step-wise reductions in production costs, which we are able share with the customers as a reduced price per Watt, without a disruptive loss of profitability.
Cost: Think all premium panels are the same? Think again!
Recent (Q416) spot market price for p-PERC modules have been reported to be around 40 ¢/W. We believe a fair market price for Sunpreme modules can be justified at twice this amount, as illustrated in the accompanying water fall diagram. This example is for a large commercial roof top in Southern California.
The comparison concerns Sunpreme’s GxB 420W equivalent panel vs a top-of-the-line p-mono PERC module rated at 350W. Staring from a nominal price of 84 ¢/W for Sunpreme product, we have applied various credits relating to a 15% Bifacial gain for C&I (Commercial & Industrial roof top), a lower thermal coefficient of efficiency (0.28%/C vs 0.45%/oC), an LID benefit of 3%, a Voc benefit of 735mV/cell vs 560 mV/cell) bringing the effective price down to 60 ¢/W for an “apple to apple” module level comparison. Moreover, at systems level an additional benefit accrues for Balance of Systems (BOS) simply because we need 22% fewer modules in case of higher power SNPM product. This is reflected in a significant savings for materials, i.e. racking and wiring portion of the BOS (R&W), and labor portions of the BOS (L). The end result of all these savings is an effective price of 35.6 ¢/W, which is in the same ball park as 40 ¢/W. We have not monetized here SNPM’s Class A fire and 300 kmh typhoon wind rating, nor a 0.1% less power degradation over 25 yrs, backed by a Munich Re performance warranty, uniquely for SNPM products.
It needs to be emphasized that this chart is a snap shot of current (Q42016) situation. With time, we expect aggressive cost reductions driven by Sunpreme’s innovations & scaling, thereby keeping a sustainable competitive edge in the market.