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Talesun: Focus on solar tech and product innovation to survive – pv magazine International

Several black swans have been circling over this year’s solar PV industry: rising raw material and product prices; supply chain issues and international logistics holdups; and power shortages in China, to name but the most disruptive. How is it possible for solar companies to survive under these conditions? According to Dong Shuguang, a PV veteran and President of Talesun Solar, they must focus on solar technologies like PERC, TOPCon and HJT, and product innovations that provide customer value.
Talesun Solar’s advanced PV module production line in Shandong, China.
Image: Talesun

Dong Shuguang, President, Talesun Solar: I am not optimistic about the total installation figure for 2021, especially given China’s performance. We all know last year’s figure was around 125 GW. At the beginning of 2021, many people estimated installations would be between 155 and 180 GW this year. However, there have been so many challenges that have badly hit China’s figures.
Total PV installations for the first six months of 2021 saw just 13 GW added. Our experience is that the volume in the second half of the year would usually be 2.5 to 3 times that of H1, which will be around 32.5 to 39 GW. So, I think quite probably total PV installations in China in 2021 will be under 50 GW. The reasons for this are the price rises seen across the entire supply chain, especially in polysilicon, which pushed costs to a very high level and many planned projects have had to be postponed. This situation did not improve in Q3 and even now, many projects are still suspended.
The operation rates of many PV module manufacturers have also been lower than 60% since October and this will continue unless the polysilicon price drops.
The H1 market situation outside of China was as expected, with smooth progress and moderate growth; however, in H2, the negative impacts from the upstream cost rises began to trickle down. Contract implementation is particularly challenging (i.e., cost vs. profit balance) and this has hurt the reputation of China’s PV companies.
The European market has always had a high tolerance to cost; however, it has also experienced a slowdown since Q3. In H1, only the polysilicon producers experienced cost increases, but in H2, several other major materials like PV glass, aluminum frames, EVA films, silver, and copper all saw cost increases. There were too many black swans flying over the industry this year. My view is the whole world will suffer a much lower actual PV installation capacity than previously expected, and this dimness will continue into Q1 2022.
We have experienced logistical issues both in terms of traffic and increased costs. Despite ocean shipment costs stabilizing, and even slightly dropping in the past few weeks, we still see very high shipment costs compared to last year. For example, the quotes for 40-inch containers were 10 times higher compared to last year from China to the U.S., and six times higher from China to India.
China also experienced double control measurements (power control by the Chinese Government for both total consumption and energy intensity per GDP, which in some places caused power shutoffs and factory shutdowns) which influenced our production. Trade barriers and macroeconomic uncertainty are still potential risks, like the extra tariffs for imported PV goods to India, and global inflation from Quantitative Easing Monetary Policy by central banks in major economies.
We don’t plan to change our investment in our PV module lines because of the investment inertia, and we have placed orders for equipment. However, we are adjusting our expansion plans for solar cells, including changing some of the lines from the previously planned passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) technology to tunnel oxide passivated contact (TOPCon).
We believe that PERC still offers the best LCOE solution for solar PV farms, and it will dominate in the next two to three years. However, for future technologies, we have deployed multiple arrangements when installing our PERC lines to make them compatible with TOPCon. HJT seems to be a little far from practice and there are few manufacturers that can provide GW scale capacity. People are very cautious with it. Saying that in late 2021 or early 2022, Talesun will also produce and supply customers with HJT modules. Based on our advanced encapsulation technology and PV module manufacturing, we will outsource HJT cells and provide HJT modules. We think HJT is a very promising technology, but it still needs time.
All our current PERC lines are compatible with TOPCon requirements, and we estimate 20% of the lines and output will be TOPCon products by the end of 2022.
Personally, I am for large-size wafers because they increase conversion rates. I am against large power modules like 700 W or even 800 W products, however, because they represent no technical improvement. Talesun now focuses on 182mm based products, because we saw a mature industrial chain of 182mm that brings significant benefits to our customers. Compared to 182mm, I see very little improvement with 210mm sized modules. But there are a lot of uncertainties for both the manufacturers and end-users. We found most of our customers care more about the stability of products – something that has already been proved. The shift in size from 166mm to 210mm is too big and I think 182mm is a much better size.
Generally, Talesun has two R&D groups. One focuses on cell technology – now mainly on TOPCon. We have many micro-innovations in this area to keep our leading position in major product specifications like passivation, metallization, and others to reach better efficiencies and for cost control in future production. The other one is focused on PV modules. Our R&D group looks at the application of new materials for modules and some encapsulation technologies like high-density, tiny gaps between cells, etc.
Talesun has invested lots of R&D efforts into BIPV and we are extremely bullish about this market. As you said, BIPV is a real “Blue Sea” market; however, there are still many obstacles, like the standardization of products, security issues with systems, and value compensation for building materials that incorporate PV, etc. These issues and problems cannot be solved by solar PV companies solely, and government needs to get involved and provide policy support.
I think several principles have held up the company’s reputation. First, our pursuit of quality has given Talesun’s customers confidence regarding the stability of our products and systems. Second, we persisted in our commitments to customers and were unwilling to break any contracts, even if it meant a loss. In the past months, we have seen some Chinese PV module makers, even very large ones, start to re-negotiate with customers about signed contracts, due to the rising costs. We have not done that.
In terms of the kind of Talesun I would like to see in 10 years, I hope the company will grow to become a professional renewable energy enterprise focused on solar PV. With strong innovation capability, the company will have extended its R&D to focus on comprehensive aspects of renewable energy, even into the basic theory of solar. Furthermore, it is my hope that Talesun will gain many customers with deep cooperation for the design and manufacturing of solar PV products. But first, like Ren Zhengfei of Huawei said, the company needs to keep survival as the first target in today’s fast-changing world.
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