Taiwan’s PV industry to become a GW scale market: The obstacles and opportunities

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EnergyTrend believes that a successful shift to renewable energies is dependent on citizen participation, and that PV power development is the very avenue by which that may be achieved.

Taiwan is located in the tropical zone, which is the area best-suited for PV installations, due to the ample sunlight. The government of Taiwan has been actively pushing for PV development as well, reaping the results of its effective Solar PV Two-Year Promotion Project passed in 2016, and achieving 1 GW in new installations for the first time in 2018. An optimistic outlook for 2019 sees 1.5 GW in new installations, which will place Taiwan among the ranks of global GW-scale markets worldwide, with a global market share of 1.6%.

PV power in Taiwan is divided into two groups: rooftop and ground-mounted systems. According to government plans, PV installations are projected to reach 20 GW in 2025, with 3 GW in rooftop PV systems and 17 GW in ground-mounted ones. From this, we can see that momentum for industry growth depends first and foremost on the ground-mounted PV system development.

Yet, Taiwan’s mountainous and ocean-encircled geography forms an inherent limitation for the development of ground-mounted PV power. The land currently used for ground-mounted systems mainly ranges from water bodies, salt production land and areas with severe land subsidence, to highly-challenging locations, such as landfills.

For PV power plants, which have life cycles up to 20 years, the key to overcoming these disadvantages and maintaining a stable energy yield lies in the quality and reliability of PV modules. For a project investor, highly reliable modules provide a steadier cash flow for power plants.

On the premise of high efficiency, high reliability and low costs, current PV modules must be able to withstand outdoor usage above 20-25 hours. That is why strict testing solutions, such as the DNV-GL (PVEL) Product Qualification Program, Qualification+, TÜV SÜD Thresher Test, Atlas 25+, PV+ Test and Fraunhofer have appeared around the globe, all for the purpose of enabling manufacturers to produce modules that are more weather-resistant.

Although reliability tests in the lab are not yet able to reproduce the harsh environmental conditions of the real world, the results from certain accelerated aging tests may allow one to predict how aging mechanisms affect performance output. This in turn helps PV installers familiarize themselves with specific environmental conditions suitable for selected modules.

While pushing for PV industry development, the Taiwan Government recognizes that testing for module reliability will become the key to gaining an edge for companies. In order to assist companies in ensuring module quality and competitiveness, the Bureau of Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs is joining efforts with the Industrial Technology Research Institute to set up PV power testing labs that carry out tests on related products, according to the IEC’s international standards and America’s UL1703 standard, and include testing conditions more appropriate to Taiwan’s environment.

In order to encourage supplier participation in verification and testing, the Bureau of Energy has also established the Taiwan Excellent PV Award, which imposes conditions three times as strict as IEC’s international standards. It also includes a test for specific environmental conditions, in order to assess whether domestically produced modules meet the requirements of the local environment. EnergyTrend provides the following table to explain the significance of, and the environments corresponding to, each test:

EnergyTrend observes that award-winners such as AU Optronics, NSP (under the new name, URE), TSEC and other module manufacturers have become increasingly known throughout the global market, and will continue to improve module quality and reliability while realizing weather resistances for specific circumstances.

The series of actions taken by the Taiwan government demonstrate its resolve to develop a vibrant PV industry through various measures and to assist suppliers in pushing the limits imposed by installation environments. Yet in the eyes of some industrialists, renewable energies are still widely regarded as ‘intermittent energy sources.’ Therefore, there is still quite a ways to go before Taiwan’s policies fully take effect and begin to achieve long-term goals.

About the author

Sharon has vast experience working in the PV industry. She specializes in global PV supply chain analysis and market forecasts based on current trends and future prospects. Prior to joining TrendForce, Sharon worked in the Solar/Fuelcell Technology Division at TÜV Rheinland Taiwan Ltd.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.