Interview with Seraphim executive general manager, Justin Xi

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pv magazine: Seraphim launched its Eclipse module at the PV Expo in Japan. Could you describe the module’s features and what makes it a good fit for the Japanese market?

Justin Xi: Currently the solar market has a number of different technologies in order to improve efficiencies. But on the module side, there has been very little innovation for the past few years. The first solar panel of 50 years ago is not too different, really, from today’s modules. So we have identified ways to improve module assembly, and what advantages this brings.

So for the Seraphim Eclipse module, the efficiency is not based on any cell efficiency increase. It uses a rather normal cell that is successfully produced at volume across the market.

The way we design the panels makes them dramatically lighter than before, using much less lead than traditional designs. Of course, efficiency is the most important thing, so our R&D team gathers daily to figure out ways to increase efficiency. Busbars, for example, are dependent on wires, which means we would lose control of supply and be exposed to price fluctuations, so we don’t use them.

What are the opportunities for Seraphim in the Japanese market, particularly with the Eclipse technology?

We entered the Japanese market a little later than other companies. Today, the mega solar plants are becoming fewer and farther between, and the policy is changing to make it less attractive to build at large scale. So we are targeting the residential market of the future. Look at Europe – no longer a strong global market, but still every year more than 3 GW of new installs. There is still regular demand from the residential and commercial sectors in many European countries.

For Japan, we believe that high efficiency products are the way forward, and by using such technology there is much more room to grow in this market.

Seraphim has already begun production at your facility in Mississippi, U.S. What is being manufactured there?

Everything is going smoothly at the Mississippi fab. The American market is still driven by demand across the large-scale sector, so the residential portion for us is not that sizable yet. We want to focus on residential in the long term, but will also build modules to supply the ground-mount market as well. The modules qualify for the Buy American scheme, which is an important mark of quality and localization in the market.

Seraphim has announced plans to expand module production capacity in China. Can you give us an update on these plans?

The goal is to expand capacity by 600 MW, and this should be finished very soon, by the end of April. In May we will hold a topping out ceremony once it is fully opened. We are looking for further production locations outside of China at the moment; it is an ongoing concern. The reason we went to the U.S. was because of the American market. But smaller markets also need local products, so we are on the lookout for new production locations, in those regions that make the most sense to Seraphim.