India poised to embrace new solar module technologies

28 January 2021 |

With an eye on China, the government has now set its focus on enhancing India’s self-reliance through building an expansive manufacturing base of ‘Made in India’ products. But what does it mean for the domestic manufacturing industry that’s still struggling to adopt latest innovations that minimize cost and optimize output?

So far, India’s approach to protect its fledgling solar industry has been the imposition of protectionist measures and capital subsidies. Being extremely-price sensitive, the Indian market has been a slow participant in the race of adopting latest technological innovations.

Technological innovations primarily revolve around attaining higher power generation and efficiency. China, which occupies the lion’s share in the global solar supply chain, has made impressive strides in technological innovations. With significant efforts in R&D, big players in China have been able to achieve cell efficiencies as high as 24%. In contrast, efficiency of cells made in India is typically around 17-18%. In 2019, LONGi invested CNY 1.677 billion (USD 242.5 million) in R&D, accounting for 5.1% of its total revenue. 

With ongoing innovations, and rapidly evolving cell and wafer sizes, many smaller suppliers find themselves in a fix as older production lines cannot accommodate these changes and upgrading production lines is a highly capital-intensive exercise in itself. Rapid technological innovations, therefore, also mean consolidation of the market by a few bigger players.

Figure: Cell capacity trend by size, GW and mm

Source: PV Infolink

The latest technologies making the buzz in the solar industry currently include, bifacial, half-cut, and mono-crystalline PERC modules. By 2025-30, the market is expected to embrace newer technologies like heterojunction, interdigitated back contact (IBC), and Topcon.

In India, majority of solar cell manufacturers are still producing multi-crystalline cells. Only a few suppliers in the Indian market are currently producing the latest technologies like half-cut and bifacial cells which are going to see a higher demand in the future.

There are multiple implications of module technology innovation on project developers and module manufacturers. In our upcoming webinar, we will discuss the latest technological innovations and their implications on project economics with a focus on the Indian market. You can register for the webinar here.

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