For years, manufacturers have increased wafer sizes for PV modules as the industry debated how big wafers should be. We see that debate coming to an end, with the opportunity to standardize around the 210mm wafer size. The industry is heading to settlement in the “how big” debate that will last at least several years. That’s a considerable amount of time in a dynamic, tech-base industry such as solar.
At the same time, federal, state and local governments, as well as a vast majority of corporations, all have ambitious carbon-reduction goals. Many are committed to being carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative by a declared point in time. Achieving these goals will require accelerating the shift to renewable energy at a massive scale. And because PV-generated power generation will need to be a centerpiece technology, otherwise-wonky questions -- like wafer size -- really matter.
And there’s a reason we’re arriving at a standard wafer size of 210mm. It enables panels to successfully deliver the value and scalability needed to meet the surging demands for this clean energy revolution. With high-powered, high-efficiency 210mm large format PV modules now available in the North American market, the next era of solar has begun.
Let’s dive into what makes the 210mm different, how it achieves the lowest LCOE and why standardization of the 210mm PV industry is going to be crucial.
What makes the 210mm different?
During more than five years of fine tuning to improve efficiency and reduce costs, PV wafers have grown larger, increasing from 156mm to 166mm, and then to 182mm. The introduction of the 210mm wafer represents the latest iteration of this wafer manufacturing trend.
However, unlike the smaller sizes, the 210mm will be future-proof for the next 5-10 years. Why? The 210mm sits at the upper limit of economical sizing. Go much bigger, and the technology encounters diminishing returns due to the increased cost of raw materials, more logistical headaches and a lack of major component compatibility.
The 210mm produces the biggest power while staying just under the ceiling of maximum financial returns. We see it having a much longer runway when compared to 182mm or smaller.
With access to 210mm, solar EPCs, developers and installers can now relegate the legacy sizes to the history books.
The benefits of 210mm
Simply increasing the size of a solar wafer wouldn’t make much sense unless the larger size also delivered more PV system value. And that’s exactly what the 210mm accomplishes through lower LCOE and widespread component compatibility, among a host of other benefits.
Best way to achieve lowest LCOE
With a range of 410W-670W+, the power output of the 210mm modules reaches 40W-90W higher than the industry average. Using half-cut cell technology reduces the PV system voltage compared to the legacy modules, allowing for a lower string length in the system. This innovative low-voltage and high-string design decreases the system LCOE.
Further, the larger sized wafers and modules also improve the efficiency of a module’s energy generation to at least 21.5%.
The overall value of the 210mm lets solar EPCs, developers and installers achieve the lowest possible LCOE.
Widespread PV system compatibility
As the wafer and module sizes increased over the past half a decade, each new iteration triggered waves of compatibility issues among PV system components.
However, the 210mm modules have extremely high installation compatibility with major system components. This makes them the ideal choice for a wide variety of installation requirements, whether for fixed-tilt racking and tracking systems, or for utility, residential and C&I projects. The high compatibility ensures optimal component interoperability for better PV system performance and fewer delays during interconnection.
Lower LCOE and widespread PV system compatibility are just two of the many benefits the 210mm modules offer. You can learn about more of the benefits here for Trina Solar’s 210mm ultra-high power Vertex modules in the company’s latest white paper.
The importance of 210mm standardization
Although standardizing silicon wafers and module size around the 210mm size provides the best chance for the solar industry to achieve the best possible scale at the lowest cost of electricity (LCOE), this won’t happen without a major industry push in the right direction.
This is why Trina Solar is leading the industry in investing in and organizing PV companies to standardize the solar supply chain around the 210mm sizes. This represents the first instance of a wide swath of both upstream and downstream PV companies joining together to call for industry-wide standardization of a specific wafer size.
The standardization provides a host of benefits for the entire supply chain: Materials, design and processes. It also includes improving production efficiency, optimizing procurement and driving technological innovation at all levels of the supply chain. Standardization delivers these benefits all while reducing the cost of supply chain manufacturing and the initial investment of PV systems. Combine them, and these benefits help the industry achieve not just grid parity, but grid prominence by delivering the value and scalability to usher in the next chapter in the era of renewable energy generation.
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