Photovoltaic Industry Innovation Trend Report: Helping Carbon Neutrality, Opportunities in the Sun (with report)

Summary of the report

After ten years of development, China has undoubtedly become the leader of the global photovoltaic industry and has made outstanding contributions to the global low-carbon transformation. In September 2020, General Secretary Xi Jinping made a commitment at the United Nations General Assembly that China’s carbon dioxide emissions will peak by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060, making China’s renewable energy industry enter a “double-speed stage” . As the main force in the renewable energy industry, my country’s photovoltaic industry will play a more important role in accelerating China’s energy transformation.

The photovoltaic industry chain starts from the upstream silicon material and silicon wafer links, and extends to the downstream power station operation and maintenance, photovoltaic panel recycling, and related technologies. The professional knowledge involves physics, chemistry, material science, electronic communication, machinery manufacturing and other disciplines, and The span is large. The technology innovation trend report covering multiple links of the photovoltaic industry, on the one hand, helps the industry insiders who focus on certain links to understand the technology status of the upstream and downstream links, on the other hand, it is also expected to provide investors in energy and other related fields with a comprehensive report. The macro picture of the industrial chain.

The specific content of the report covers macro policies, market trends, and specific technological innovation trends, etc. From the perspective of macro policies: China’s consumption guarantee mechanism and the carbon neutrality goals proposed by developed countries provide support for medium and long-term photovoltaic demand . After China’s renewable energy quota consumption guarantee mechanism is officially implemented in 2020, it will play an active role in the energy consumption side and help the continuous expansion of the upstream photovoltaic industry. The consumption guarantee mechanism makes the attribution of consumption responsibilities clearer, encourages local governments to vigorously support, prompts enterprises to directly increase new energy capacity and prompts power grid companies to improve power grid planning, strengthen cross-regional delivery of new energy, and directly achieve the purpose of increasing photovoltaic demand; On the other hand, as the EU raises its carbon emission reduction target in 2030, and Japan and South Korea have successively proposed long-term carbon neutrality targets, the demand for overseas PV markets will also see a surge in the future.

From the perspective of market trends: on the power consumption side, the quota system can cooperate with the green certificate mechanism, renewable energy market-based trading and other policy and market means to jointly promote the production and consumption of photovoltaics, and better leverage market transactions and mandatory constraints effect. On the power generation side, in 2021, China’s photovoltaic power generation will usher in a comprehensive grid parity, and photovoltaic technology innovation will continue to reduce the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour from the three dimensions of the total life cycle power generation hours, power station operation and maintenance costs, and system cost costs. Finally, even after the national photovoltaic subsidy income is removed, the yield of photovoltaic power plants is still very considerable, with the same good stability as fixed income assets, and also has the high profitability that may be brought by floating income assets. The internal rate of return of the project is in 7%-10%. In recent years, the component cost and other construction costs of photovoltaic power plants have continued to decline, and the internal rate of return of photovoltaic power plants has shown an upward trend, which has good development prospects and investment value.

In addition to comprehensively understanding the opportunities of China’s photovoltaic industry from the perspective of macro policies and the market, innovative technologies in all aspects of the photovoltaic industry are also topics that photovoltaic industry practitioners and photovoltaic industry investors should focus on. This report takes this opportunity to sort out the innovation opportunities of the photovoltaic industry from upstream silicon materials to downstream intelligent operation and maintenance of power plants for the inside and outside of the industry. They are:

  • Silicon material link: purification process

The photovoltaic industry requires the purity of silicon material to reach 6N-9N level. Coupled with the development trend of photovoltaic cells to N-type cells, the industry has new requirements for the purity of upstream silicon materials. Relevant enterprises increase the research and development and investment in silane method and other technologies, which can make the upstream silicon material purification process reach a new level under the development trend of the photovoltaic industry.

  • Silicon wafer link: high-purity quartz sand

Quartz crucible is a one-time quartz device that holds polycrystalline silicon raw materials in the process of single crystal pulling rod. The main raw material for the production of quartz crucibles is high-purity quartz sand, and the world’s currently qualified ore sources are concentrated in individual regions, and the production of upstream high-end monocrystalline silicon wafers faces the risk of “stuck neck”. Therefore, domestic high-purity artificial silicon dioxide will play an important role in the production of high-purity silicon wafers in the future.

  • Battery link: perovskite battery

Although the cost per watt of crystalline silicon cells has dropped rapidly in recent years, the room for falling material costs of crystalline silicon cells is shrinking, and the cell efficiency has approached its theoretical limit. The material cost of perovskite cells is low, the light absorption performance is outstanding, and the single junction efficiency has increased from 3.8% to 25.5% in just ten years, which is expected to become the mainstream battery technology of the next generation.

  • Component recycling

A major potential problem facing the photovoltaic industry in the future is the aging and recycling of solar photovoltaic panels. However, my country currently has no policies and regulations on photovoltaic panel recycling, and there are very few companies that focus on photovoltaic panel recycling. In the research and development of its core technology, since silicon material occupies a relatively large proportion in photovoltaic panels, if high-purity silicon material can be extracted from old photovoltaic panels for use. This will create greater market value.

  • System link: tracking bracket

Compared with the fixed tilt bracket, the current single-axis tracker can increase the power generation of the power station by 7%-37%, and the dual-axis tracker can increase the power generation by up to 40%. The tracking bracket is a combination of hardware and software technology. In terms of hardware, advanced materials are used to ensure the stability of the bracket and to maintain the strength of the bracket structure under constant tracking of the most suitable lighting angle; in terms of software, the tracking angle is accurately calculated. These are all bottlenecks to be broken through in the future in the tracking of stents.

  • Application Development Link: Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV)

BIPV can be regarded as an upgrade of the development model of industrial and commercial photovoltaic rooftop projects. Recently, the booming development of the photovoltaic industry has driven the rapid recovery of the BIPV concept. While high-quality roof resources are becoming increasingly scarce, the cost of photovoltaic systems has dropped rapidly, making BIPV modules economical to directly replace factory color steel tile roofs.

  • Operation and maintenance link: cleaning robot

The demand for photovoltaic cleaning robots depends on the customer’s emphasis on refined operation and maintenance. Traditionally, power station operation and maintenance units can rely on experience and historical data to determine when cleaning is required. However, the advantages brought by the automatic high-frequency cleaning of robots are difficult to be quantitatively and intuitively felt in the early stage of project operation. In addition, the operation and maintenance unit has a limited budget and little pressure on assessment. In the face of high up-front investment, it lacks sufficient purchasing power. This has led to the fact that only a small number of power stations with particularly serious pollution will be equipped with cleaning robots to increase the frequency of cleaning, or for demonstration purposes. However, after comparison, the cost of robot cleaning still has an advantage over the cost of traditional cleaning modes.

  • Operation and maintenance: operation and maintenance of drones

China’s drone inspection market is still in the early stage of development. Many domestic drone inspection companies are still at the level of equipment and technology, and industry-leading foreign companies have shifted their focus to more professional software and analysis. The foreign operation and maintenance are more refined, and they pay more attention to the screening before the failure occurs, and actively develop the business of small power stations. Relatively speaking, the current domestic photovoltaic power station operation and maintenance is not highly valued. However, with the advent of the era of photovoltaic parity, it is expected that there will be more refined demand for photovoltaic operation and maintenance in the future, and the market for UAV photovoltaic inspection in China will also be broader.

The research method of this report is mainly based on desktop literature research, and at the same time, the recent PV industry dynamics are shared through industry insiders. Photovoltaic technology is advancing with each passing day. Due to the limited expertise of the team, errors and omissions are inevitable in the content of the writing. I only hope to use this report to attract insights and discuss the innovation and upgrading of the photovoltaic industry in the next decade with more colleagues in the industry.

PowerLab was founded by the international environmental protection organization Greenpeace and the California Clean Energy Foundation. It is the first non-profit incubator focused on renewable energy in China. On the basis of devoting to incubating and empowering innovative and entrepreneurial teams and individuals in renewable energy, PowerLab introduces the concept and practice of “open innovation”. Various forms to help start-up teams in the energy field.

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