Suniva to ramp up cell capacity in 2016, supports monocrystalline trend

Following China-based Shunfeng’s injection of US$57 million into the high efficiency crystalline silicon U.S. cell and module manufacturer, Suniva said it would increase its manufacturing capacity to 400 MW.

Responding to questions from pv magazine, Matt Card, VP, global sales & marketing said the company plans to expand its solar cell manufacturing from around 150 MW to just over 400 MW at its Georgia facility. "Architectural / engineering is already underway, with construction expected to commence this fall," he said. Up to 500 full time jobs are expected to be created, including management, manufacturing, engineering and administration.

In Michigan, meanwhile, Suniva is currently ramping up to the full 200 MW solar PV module capacity. "Expanded capacity for the Saginaw facility is currently being evaluated," continued Card.

He would not comment on whether or not Suniva will eventually ramp up to 1 GW, as Shunfeng CEO Eric Luo was quoted as saying by Bloomberg. "We are not prepared to address expansion beyond this current phase already made public," he said, adding, "That said, both Suniva and Shunfeng management are in agreement with regards to scaling Suniva’s U.S. manufacturing capacity to be a significant platform of support for the U.S. solar market.

"As the U.S. market continues to mature, sophisticated buyers are increasingly valuing power density and quality. Increasing demand for our technology continues to outpace supply. We will work aggressively to continue to grow capacity to serve all those customers that are asking to buy our products."

In addition to the U.S., Card said the North, Central and South American markets are of interest to Suniva, as is Japan. "We continue to primarily focus on Commercial, Residential, Micro-Utility, and Government markets, and enjoy great success in those spaces," he added.

Increasingly, companies are indicating that demand monocrystalline silicon solar products is increasing, and that their role is growing in importance. Recently, China’s Longi Silicon said that despite the fact monocrystalline silicon currently holds less than 20% market share in China, it is aiming to significantly expand its monocrystalline silicon capacity, believing that in five years, there will be no market for multicrystalline silicon due to cost performance. Comtec, also based in China, echoed these sentiments.

Responding to whether Suniva agreed with this prognosis, Card commented, "The market for monocrystalline, power-dense, modules is very strong, and growing stronger. We believe that power density will continue to grow in importance, especially as distributed generation and micro-utility/utility solutions in urban/near-urban areas continue to grow.

"As high-quality/ease-of-construction land becomes more developed, and therefore less available and more expensive, power density becomes the driving consideration. Monocrystalline continues to prove that it is easily the best solution for power-dense technology."