Is there any other option except from black silicon for multi-si cells to increase conversion efficiency as well as to reduce production costs? 1366 Technology and Hanwha Q CELLS said YES. By adopting 1366’s Direct Wafer® technology with Q CELLS’ Q.ANTUM multi-si PERC platform, they successfully achieved 19.9% efficiency record.
Mono-si products’ advantages in price and power generation efficiency have gradually taken over multi-si products’ market share, while such a competition accelerates developments of multi-si technologies such as diamond-wire cut wafers and black silicon process. 1366, by taking another approach, uses the “kerfless” technology to innovate its Direct Wafer® solution, which creates multi-si wafers directly from polysilicon, slipping cast crucibles and coatings used in directional-solidified ingots. Therefore, Direct Wafer® saves silicon material, processing energy and time consumptions.
Moving to mass production
1366 and Q CELLS’ cooperation have achieved 19.1% efficiency on multi-si Q.ANTUM PERC cells in November, 2015, and the record was further updated to 19.6% in November, 2016 and 19.9% in March, 2017. All the progresses were achieved by multi-si wafers made in 1366’s MA factory and cells manufactured in Q CELLS’ lab in Germany.
The 19.9% result was realized by 156mm drop-in wafers and was independently confirmed by the Fraunhofer ISE CalLab.
“Our efficiency is improving at a rate that’s nearly double that of the rest of the industry,” said Frank van Mierlo, CEO, 1366 Technologies. “Late last year, we exceeded the cell efficiency of the high-performance multi (HPM) reference group in a head-to-head comparison, and we continue to make progress. This latest milestone demonstrates the rapid gains still possible with our Direct Wafer process because our technology is not limited by the inherent weaknesses of ingot-based wafer manufacturing.”
According to EnergyTrend’s research, the average conversion efficiency of mainstream multi-si cells is 18.4%. With black silicon etching process, multi-si cells’ efficiency can be improved to around 19%, based on wet, dry etching or addictive process. In comparison, the average conversion efficiency of multi-si PERC cells is about 19.4%. Hence, Direct Wafer® technology can be competitive in the multi-si market as long as the production costs can be reduced and yield rate can be improved for massive production.
The smooth and productive collaboration between 1366 and Q CELLS has convinced Q CELLS to purchase up to 700MW of direct wafers from 1366 across five years, announced in April 2016. 1366 is about to complete its New York fab, with a capacity of 250MW for the first phase, soon and will ship wafers to Q CELLS.
First large-scale order, in Japan
In the meantime, 1366 has won its first downstream order to build the world’s first commercial PV system utilizing Direct Wafer® technology.
Japan’s IHI Corporation, through its wholly-owned subsidiary IHI Plant Construction Co., Ltd (IPC), has begun construction on a 500kW solar installation in Hyogo prefecture, while 1366 has supplied more than 120,000 wafers made with its Direct Wafer® process. The array is scheduled to be completed in the second half of 2017.
1366 managed the module procurement to support this project with IHI Group. The IEC-certified modules that will be installed for the 500kW Hyogo project will be assembled by a Tier 1 manufacturer in China.
“This commercial array builds on the many successes we’ve had at test sites around the world and clearly demonstrates our ability to run the Direct Wafer process at scale,” commented van Mierlo. “This installation, coupled with our recent performance records, drives home what makes our manufacturing technology so revolutionary: we have the ability to deliver a better product at a dramatically lower cost.”
It is possible for Direct Wafer® to win a certain market share since the results offered by 1366 and Q CELLS are positive. However, the production capacity of direct wafers is still too small for this innovative technology to help multi-si products overcome current difficulties. EnergyTrend expects that black silicon process will be broadly selected by multi-si makers in the short-term.