According to Joe Chen, Head of Asia Pacific & MENA for Tongwei Solar (TW Solar), the company announced last year that it was entering the module business to add solar panels to its broad range of PV products. With its push into the modules business, TW Solar is, in the words of Chen, “the only module maker in the top 10 to have its own polysilicon. That is our advantage.”
And it’s a big advantage, since TW Solar can pass on its command of polysilicon to its customers in the form of more predictability when it comes to module pricing. With polysilicon prices fluctuating widely in the past year, this ability to effectively shield the customer from large price swings can be a big benefit to customers who are trying to avoid price shocks as they bid on large projects in very competitive markets like utility-scale solar in the Middle East.
Chen said large players like ACWA Power and Masdar had approached TW Solar at WFES to possibly tap the benefits that such a vertically integrated PV supply chain offers. And TW Solar is not simply vertically integrated with a PV product portfolio ranging from high-purity crystalline silicon to ultra-thin silicon wafers, high-efficiency solar cells, and now high-efficiency modules. It is in fact the world’s largest polysilicon manufacturer, with an annual production capacity of 230 kilotons (KT) covering three production bases in Sichuan, Inner Mongolia, and Yunnan in China.
The company is also the world’s largest cell manufacturer, with 70 GW of production capacity in place at the end of 2022. Its wafer production capacity amounts to 15 GW. Chen highlights the fact that there is “enough wafer capacity on the market” and that “we can buy from this market” to feed the 70 GW the company needs on the cell side.
Module production capacity stood at 15 GW at the end of 2022, a big jump from the 500 MW the company started with when it acquired Hefei LDK’s module-making business in 2013. According to Chen, that marked the beginning of TW Solar’s foray into the module business.
WFES, part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, marked the first big opportunity to showcase the company’s module business at a leading international solar energy event, as MENA is an important target market for the Chengdu-based manufacturer. For large-scale PV power plants in the Middle East, TW Solar’s track record and cell and module technologies provide various benefits. Given its vertical integration, the manufacturer can offer both M10 and G12 cells. It can also offer a wide range of cell technologies from mono PERC to n-type TOPCon to heterojunction (HJT).
Chen sees n-type TOPCon becoming a key market for TW Solar in the Middle East, and the manufacturer can offer this product from April. Its n-type TOPCon bifacial module products will deliver up to 700 W of power, based on 66 G12 cells.
Chen points to TW Solar’s extensive experience in deploying bifacial panels in large-scale projects in mainland China. A company affiliate in the project business has installed more than 2 GW of projects annually over the past five years.
So far, all of TW Solar’s vast manufacturing footprint is based in mainland China. It already leads in polysilicon and cell production and its new goal is to become the world’s leader in module production within the next three years. To get there, it plans to ramp up module production from 15 GW per year currently to 80 GW in the course of this year, and more than 80 GW next year. This ramp-up will be accompanied by major ramp-ups further upstream, from 70 GW to 102 GW on the cell side in 2023, and between 130 GW and 150 GW in 2024. On the polysilicon side, it will ramp up from 230 KT to 350 KT in 2023, and to between to 800 KT and 1,000 KT in 2024. Given its strong cooperation with Longi and other wafer producers, wafer production capacity will remain constant at 15 GW per year.
While MENA offers a perfect environment for 700 W bifacial TOPCon modules, Chen is also keen to promote the “TW Solar” module brand in European PV markets – especially Germany, Spain, Holland and Poland. In these markets rooftop applications will feature prominently – a good fit for the company’s all-black modules. Other priority markets overseas are Australia and Brazil.
For these six key markets, TW Solar should have local offices in place by the third quarter of this year, on the back of strong brand-building activities. As Chen puts it: “So this year for overseas markets the most important thing is to show our brand, to let the market know who is TW Solar – what can TW Solar offer?”
There can be little doubt that the market will find out that TW Solar is one of the leading Chinese PV manufacturers, with a long track record in upstream manufacturing and PV technology. It already offers mass production n-type TOPCon and HJT modules with a 35 year product guarantee and control of a large spectrum of the PV supply chain. That level of control should prove enticing to customers outside of the Middle East as well.
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