Inside JinkoSolar’s bid to steal a TOPCon march over its PV manufacturing rivals

JinkoSolar’s line of n-type Tiger Neo solar modules was launched last year. Image: Jinko Solar.

The n-type transition of the solar industry presents a major strategic opportunity and it is one that JinkoSolar aims to seize with both hands.

Talk to PV technology at this year’s Intersolar Europe Expo, Frank Niendorf, Managing Director for Europe at JinkoSolar, said a strategic shift is underway, with the solar industry moving away from a model that views modules purely photovoltaics as commodity-based and therefore competitive to death. This transition has been underway for a few years in earnest, with the price race now arguably relegated to the pre-pandemic era, made unpleasant by soaring material and logistics costs.

This coincided with a drastic technological change, which bears all the hallmarks of how solar went from polycrystalline to mono, and then to bulk PERC. Only this change, adopting Tunnel Oxidized Passivated Contact (TOPCon) cells and modules as the industry’s foray into a new era of n-type modules, will happen much faster than even the most ardent strategists of the change might have claimed, Niendorf said.

“We believe this quite dramatic transition from PERC to n-type will happen much faster than anyone anticipated, and we fully believe this is the future market standard,” he said. -he declares.

JinkoSolar’s position in n-type, and especially TOPCon, has been booming for a few years, after focusing on technology from an R&D perspective. This gave the manufacturer confidence in the technology and, as Niendorf noted, its emergence was timed with the completion of JinkoSolar’s listing on Shanghai’s STAR market earlier this year.

This, Niendorf said, gave the company the resources to invest and left Jinko in a “strategically very comfortable position.” Jinko’s overall manufacturing capacity is now expected to increase significantly, with the company aiming to have 65 GW of capacity by the end of this year – around two-thirds of which is to be TOPCon – and the majority of which will be fully integrated.

As a result, more than 10 GW of TOPCon modules will be shipped by JinkoSolar by the end of this year, with Europe expected to be a top destination given its market maturity.

These numbers, according to Niendorf, would be enough to cement JinkoSolar’s position at the forefront of the n-type transition.

“It gives us such a nice competitive advantage, and the very dimension of capacity will lead to economies of scale that will help us reduce the cost of manufacturing very, very close to being competitive. Then it becomes a no-brainer,” Niendorf said.

N-type modules currently operate at a higher price than traditional p-type PERC given the costs of the higher purity polysilicon needed for n-type wafers and the additional manufacturing processes involved, but, given the inherent advantages in terms of efficiency, temperature coefficient and bifaciality, an increasing number of studies demonstrate the benefits of LCOE. Bringing manufacturing costs back into the PERC range would therefore, as Niendorf put it, cement TOPCon’s “technical superiority.”

“From an investor’s point of view, there is no reason for you to continue to use [PERC]and that’s very exciting… it will be interesting to watch now how the markets handle this and how quickly they follow,” he said.

Of course, JinkoSolar is not alone in investing heavily in the production of TOPCon modules, but the manufacturer is determined to get ahead of its rivals to reach critical manufacturing capacity as quickly as possible.

This is where the timing of JinkoSolar’s recent IPO is critical, Niendorf said. “While our peers have invested heavily in PERC over the past few years, because their IPOs were earlier, ours were later, and now we’re fortunate not to be sitting on that capability. “, did he declare.

But could it be otherwise for Next solar technology transition? TOPCon has, by some, been seen as the industry’s bridge to heterojunction or even perovskite tandem cells, two technologies for which the industry has equally bright ambitions. By investing so heavily in TOPCon, couldn’t JinkoSolar lose ground to other manufacturers who could, in three, four or five years, repeat the investment cycle, but in the production of HJT or tandem cells?

“There is always a risk, and it has been for 10 or 20 years in this industry. You have to be very careful what you invest in because if you bet on the wrong horse you will be out of the market. I’m sure there will be alternative technologies, on one side there is a technical or efficiency consideration, but on the other side, which is equally important, is the manufacturing costs,” said Niendorf.

“Especially for heterojunction versus TOPCon, how fast can you reduce production costs? I think that’s something we’re going to achieve with TOPCon very, very quickly. don’t have some plans for the future [in HJT]but at least for the next, say, two to three years, we are confident that TOPCon is the best value proposition.

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