China-based Xi’an LONGi Silicon Materials Corp (LONGi) will invest about RM100mil next year in expanding the company’s various manufacturing facilities in Samajaya Free Industrial Zone (SFIZ), Kuching, to boost the production capacity of solar panels
China-based Xi’an LONGi Silicon Materials Corp (LONGi) will invest about RM100mil next year in expanding the company’s various manufacturing facilities in Samajaya Free Industrial Zone (SFIZ), Kuching, to boost the production capacity of solar panels.
LONGi – the world’s largest manufacturer of solar-grade mono-crystalline silicon products – has invested some RM1.3bil in SFIZ since spreading its wing to Sarawak with the acquisition of US-based SunEdison’s silicon wafer production facility in SFIZ for US$63mil in March last year.
The facility has a capacity of 600MW.
According to LONGi (Kuching) Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Ngieng Sii Jing, the company’s major investments last year were in the construction of new manufacturing facilities – a silicon ingot plant, a solar wafer plant, a passivated emitter rear cell solar cells plant as well as a high performance module plant.
“We are ramping up in stages the production of the various plants,” he told StarBiz.
LONGi Kuching is the first in the world to have a full supply chain for mono-crystalline silicon products in one single location. Kuching is also LONGi’s first overseas operation.
Ngieng said the ingots were supplied to the wafer plant while the produced wafers supplied to the cells plant.
The solar cells will then be sold to the module plant, which produces the solar panels.
LONGi Kuching made another major acquisition in June, taking over the solar manufacturing plant owned by Comtec Solar International (M) Sdn Bhd for 200 million yuan (RM130mil).
China-based Comtec Solar is a pure-play mono-crystalline solar ingot and wafer manufacturer.
“With the acquisition,Comtec Solar gives us an additional 700MW capacity. We refurbished the plant and upgraded its cooler system. The plant re-started operations two weeks ago,” said Ngieng.
LONGi also acquired the former factory of Sanmina-SCI Corporation (M) Sdn Bhd,which was involved in the production of printed circuit boards (PCB) in SFIZ. Sanmina-SCI shut down its factory in 2012 after it shifted operation to its new facility in Wuxi, China
The old factory has been converted for solar production. LONGi Kuching operation currently cover some 42 ha.
Ngieng said next year’s proposed investment in the expansion of various plants,including purchase of new equipment, and in new warehouse facilities and operation areas, would raise their respective production capacity.
“The proposed expansion will increase the ingot plant’s capacity from the current 300 MW to 1 GW in third quarter-2018. The wafer plant’s capacity will be raised to 1GW from 600 MW,cell plant’s capacity to 700 MW from 600 MW while that of the module plant to 900 MW from 600 MW.
“With full operation of the various manufacturing facilities,we expect to achieve annual sales of RM2bil by next year,” added Ngieng
He said the company would sell solar wafers and cells if there is any surplus after meeting its own requirements.
LONGi Kuching currently exports only solar panels to the United States, Canada and Europe.
The company ships out between 300 and 360 containers per month and ships in a similar number of containers per month of raw materials.
The raw materials, like glass panels, aluminium frames, EVA solar film (a key material for solar panel lamination), backsheets, packaging materials and chemicals, were sourced from China and other countries.
Ngieng said LONGi Kuching had qualified a Chinese firm, which owns a glass factory in Melaka, for the supply of raw materials. The company expects to source polysilicon – an essential raw material for solar cells – from South Korea’s OCI Co Ltd-owned plant in Samalaju Industrial Park, Bintulu once the latter has met with the quality standard set by LONGi. OCI acquired the polycrystalline silicon plant from Japan’s Tokuyama about six months ago.
“We are trying to bring our China suppliers to set up manufacturing plants in SFIZ. We are also helping to develop local suppliers.”
Acording to Ngieng, LONGi, listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, commanded 42% share in the global market in mono-crystalline silicon as at the end of 2016.
He said the global demand for solar panels has seen exponential growth in the past several years, reaching 100 GW last year from 90 GW in 2015.
LONGi Kuching, which currently has a workforce of about 2,100, needs to recruit a further 900 people by next year.