New Solar Module Technologies Must Factor in Local Weather Conditions

Experts brainstorm on the latest renewable technology trends


The rapidly growing renewable energy sector calls for significant technological breakthroughs to support its faster and more affordable adoption across the globe.

The renewables sector, including solar, wind, energy storage, and others, has seen unprecedented technological innovations, bringing many advantages and challenges.

At the ‘Mercom India Renewables Summit 2023’, an exclusive event on April 26-27 in New Delhi, industry stakeholders discussed the disruptive technologies that have made their way into Indian markets.

In a session titled ‘Technology Trends Driving the Renewables Market,’ panelists discussed critical issues, opportunities, and emerging trends in the industry.

The panel featured Dinesh Dayanand Jagdale, Joint Secretary at MNRE; Sujoy Ghosh, Vice President & Country Managing Director-India at First Solar; Sishir Garemella, Head of International BD at PV Evolution Labs; Sai Charan Kuppili, Technical Director at Jinko Solar and Rahul Morde, GM Business Development, LONGi India.

The session was moderated by Priya Sanjay, Managing Director, Mercom India.

India’s Technology Front

As the solar manufacturing sector continues to ramp up, technological advancement will be crucial as India plans to become a global manufacturing hub.

According to Jagdale, the government’s strategy focuses on first addressing the solar manufacturing sector to ensure India emerges as a global leader.

He said, “Through our various programs, we have tried targeting capacity growth, jobs, and efficiency. As technology evolves, the manufacturing setup must adapt to be more conducive to ensure the efficiency part. Through our production-linked incentive program, we try to reward and promote efficiency to develop a substantial ecosystem with local value addition and supply chain. The capacity developed under the program will help make India a solar photovoltaic manufacturing hub with almost 100 GW of module manufacturing capacity per annum.”

Kuppili felt two primary metrics determine the final levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for modules: high power density and high energy density, which, if managed efficiently, can accelerate technological advancement.

He said, “Almost every manufacturer is trying to standardize module dimensions to ensure mechanical compatibility; another aspect is electrical compatibility. The technology becomes acceptable when these two compatibility aspects are merged to achieve a reduced LCOE. Looking at the current technology trajectory, TOPCon is leading from the front, and HJT also exists. Still, due to its infinite busbar technology, it requires a sophisticated environment and reduced temperatures, which may not utilize the existing PERC lines. TOPCon, on the other hand, fits perfectly in such an environment.”

Agreeing with Kuppili, Morde said, “The current Mono PERC technology will gradually phase out; we foresee N-type to takeover by the end of the year. HJT might come into the picture at a larger scale in the next three to four years.”

Garemella said it is still in its lab research phase regarding perovskite technology.

He said, “We estimate perovskite to take at least five years to go commercial, but you never know, considering how fast things change in solar. According to our quarterly report called Solar Technology and Cost Assessment, we had initially assumed TOPCon would be at parity with Mono PERC by the end of 2024, but now that seems to be by the end of 2023.“


Key Factors in the Technology Race

Ghosh expressed his views on looking beyond just the nameplate efficiency of modules and considering their capacity utilization and in-field efficiency over their lifetime when developing new technology.

He said, “Yes, efficiency has some lever to play in improving the cost per watt for a manufacturer, so does the simplicity of your BOM, the energy and water intensity of the production processes, the labor productivity, and the process as a whole. Even if you can produce the most efficient module technology, you can still lose all your money if you run your plant at 75% capacity utilization.”

“We think that despite the whole focus on efficiency, the nameplate and field efficiency or kWh are completely different. You might receive a PLI based on your nameplate efficiency, but what matters is if it created enough value in the field over its lifetime of 25 years. Field reliability is an important aspect, which is not being discussed,” he added.

Morde said the transition period when introducing new technology is crucial to tackling challenges like raw material availability, supply chain demand, and acceptance.

He said, “The acceptance of new technology is very different for the Indian and global markets because we have certain trade protections and certification processes, which must be considered when introducing new technology. Also, achieving optimum efficiency during mass production is the core idea of developing new technology. “

Garemella said the precision of manufacturing must improve to maintain the quality of the new technology, and the latest technology must be looked at from the context of Indian weather conditions.

He said, “We must focus more on long-term reliability, and it is very clear that the latest is not always the greatest, and we must ensure that it suits Indian weather conditions.”

Kuppili felt it is important to look beyond just the square wafers and cells as different dimensions will find various applications in the future to enhance efficiency.

He said, “We are experimenting with better fits like 182×182, which can be further optimized to 182×196 or 182×210, which can be the future trend. We are considering only square wafers but will see a rectangular wafer mechanism or modules going forward. When used in different variations of technology in polycrystalline modules, these dimensions can help reduce the temperature coefficient and the degradation parameters.”