Ivan Reyes
Mexico Country Sales Manager
LONGi Solar
HHongbin Fang
Hongbin Fang
Director of Product Marketing
LONGi Solar
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Insight

Investing in R&D to Become No. 1

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 16:11

As global PV markets shift toward monocrystalline products given higher efficiency and cheaper dollar-per-kilowatt-hour LCOE (levelized cost of electricity), the addition of bifacial module technology is set to change how solar energy is generated. “We see a lot of appetite from utility-scale developers,” says Ivan Reyes, Mexico Country Sales Manager of LONGI Solar. “Some of these are looking for strategies to consolidate private PPAs or going merchant. Hence, they have started to look at more efficient products that increase the system’s performance, and hence their ROIs.”

 

The Chinese world-leading manufacturer of high-efficiency mono-crystalline solar cells and modules is winning the mono-products race. LONGI Solar doubled its module capacity between 2018 and 2019, increasing from 8.8GW to 16GW. By the end of 2021, its target is to hit 30GW. Latin America represents 8 percent of the company’s market share and in Mexico, monocrystalline products are becoming more attractive. “Especially Mono PERC, our high-efficiency mono product, which maximizes the energy output for limited-space applications,” says Reyes.

 

Bifacial module technology also is quickly penetrating the market. Reyes is confident there will be more projects of this nature in the near future. “At the moment, industry is still driven by monofacial modules. In fact, we installed the first bifacial project in the country. In terms of capacity, 85 percent of our projects are with monofacial modules and the rest uses bifacial technology,” he says. According to Solar Power World, if installed on a highly reflective surface, these modules can reach up to a 30 percent increase in production.

 

The challenge with this technology is the unpredictability of power output given the characteristics of the material on which PV systems are mounted. According to LONGI Solar, water has a lower albedo than concrete, reflects nearly 10 percent of incident light while concrete reflects between 25-40 percent. Reflective film reflects between 75 and 90 percent. Other aspects such as module height and the space between rows can also impact bifacial energy yield.

 

According to Hongbin Fang, Director of Product Marketing at LONGi Solar, the secret formula behind the company’s success lies in its constant investment in R&D. “We invest close to 5-7 percent of our revenue in R&D, which is not very common in the PV supply chain,” he says. It has paid off. LONGi Solar is the world’s largest mono ingot and wafer supplier with >40% market share. In 2014, the company expanded its business into solar cell and module manufacturing. “At the moment, 100 percent of manufacturing capacity are mono PERC” he says.

 

By 2020, LONGi Solar aims to conquer 20 percent of the country’s market share. “This growth will be led by monofacial modules. To achieve this, we are establishing partnerships with key developers and providing training to their technicians so they can understand our products,” says Reyes. In the distributed generation segment, the company hopes to close 2019 with 25MW of solar rooftop installations. “We are also executing workshops for integrators and installers so they can truly understand the benefits of mono technology and its LCOE performance,” he adds.

 

Developing a local value chain remains a key challenge and Reyes believes it is more efficient to manufacture its products overseas and import them into the country, even with the 15 percent tariff imposition on solar panels. “Given our increase in production and large volume demand, delivery times have shortened. Containers are shipped from Shanghai and arrive to Manzanillo port in no more than 40 days. We also deliver some shipments to Progreso port,” says Reyes.

 

Whether importing or not, Fang is confident that the company’s approach to technology is what sets the company apart from its competitors. “Our investment in R&D has helped us to establish a strong financial performance as it has lowered our costs. With solid profit margins, LONGi Solar has become a sustainable company. Maintaining a healthy balance sheet is the best guarantee we can provide to our clients” he says, adding that LONGi Solar is in Mexico for the long run.