Heterojunction cell line at GS Solar, China, Image: GS Solar

‘Solar Module Super League’ (SMSL) member Canadian Solar is planning to launch its first N-type heterojunction (HJ) PV modules in the second half of 2021, PV Tech can reveal.

The SMSL member noted in financial filings that it had completed the construction of a 250MW pilot line for its PASSCon HJ cell development in late 2020 following several years of R&D development. The pilot line would also include module assembly at the facility in Jiaxing, China.

Canadian Solar inferred that the HJ modules would be high efficiency with the “best technical competence”. This would indicate that cell conversion efficiencies would need to be in range of 25% as other PV manufacturers are targeting similar cell efficiencies.

In its latest earnings call Yan Zhuang, Canadian Solar’s president & COO highlighted that the company would continue to improve its position in global distributed generation markets (residential) in 2021 and onwards, due to the better modules ASPs.

“Our CSI Solar [distributed generation] strategy will increasingly focus on premium markets and segments and channels. For example, we will continue to enhance our market-leading position in the distributed generation markets where we have greater pricing power and a stickier customer base.

“In fact, last year, more than half of our total shipments went into this channel, even though globally, this channel accounts for less than 40% of the total market. In this channel, the value proposition is driven by the total system solution because user experience matters a lot, more than just it’s utility,” said Zhuang.

HJ technology has been touted as the mainstream replacement for Passivated Emitter Rear Cell (PERC) technology as early as 2023, but production costs still lag behind advanced PERC product offerings.

But HJ modules can compete in the premium residential rooftop sectors, due to high-performance, lower degradation and temperature coefficients compared to p-Type mono PERC products.

Canadian Solar did not disclose volume manufacturing plans for the HJ cells and modules, but the company did highlight in its latest earnings call that its capital expenditure plans in 2021 could be in the range of US$700 million, compared to spending of US$330 million in 2020.

As PV Tech recently reported, the SMSL member is planning a significant expansion of in-house cell production capacity in 2021, yet has continued to fall behind its rivals.

However, major SMSL rival JinkoSolar is planning to focus on n-Type mono TOPCon cell technology and capacity expansions rather than HJ as it believes the HJ technology is not as mature for mainstream applications.

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