pv magazine: Right after the SNEC trade show in May of this year many market participants were surprised by the new China central government policy to limit subsidy support for PV installations. What is LONGi Solar’s view of this new policy and how has the market changed since this policy was announced?
Zhenguo Li: Even without this 5/31 policy change, the market will not be that different than before. We can give you an example. The solar industry, is like most industries - once the industry gets mature, consolidation needs to happen. Meaning that the technology evolves. The multi-wafer price collapsed before this policy change. So this new policy change caused short-term issues for most companies, including us. We will face the pressure of profit. But for the long term, it will not change our position in the industry.
pv magazine: Another question on policy: The European Commission recently announced its intention to discontinue the Minimum Import Price (MIP) for imported modules. How will this affect LONGi Solar’s business in Europe? What opportunities present themselves?
Li: This will have a positive impact. LONGi Solar has set up an ambitious target for the EU market. The removal of the MIP allows LONGi Solar to better serve the EU market by providing high performance new generation products that are currently manufactured in our China facilities. At the same time the removal of the MIP will also allow renewable energy costs to reduce dramatically. That will help motivate stronger market demand than expected.
pv magazine: When I spoke with you at Intersolar North America, you provided some thoughts on the market share that you expect for mono and multicrystalline silicon in 2018 and 2019. Have there been any developments in the last two months that have changed your perspective to any degree, and can you comment on the price trends that you are seeing for wafers?
Li: First off, it takes time to figure out the shift. Some projects were designed based on multicrystalline and they cannot change the module design. But today almost everyone realizes that mono is the future. So once people reach this conclusion, this change can happen really fast. I can give you an example based on diamond wire cutting. 2017 was the first year when diamond wire cutting was first adopted. By 2018, the percentage might be 40%. In 2022, diamond wire may be 100%.
That was the conclusion back in 2017. In reality, in 2018, diamond wire adoption is 100%. It happened faster than anyone expected.
Today most people have reached the conclusion that mono will replace multi. So that will happen must faster in the next one or two years.
The percentage of mono depend on the market scale and capacity. Next year we believe the mono wafer capacity will be anything between 70 to 80 GW. So if the market scale is only 100 GW, then let’s say mono will be 70%. If market goes beyond expectation to 150 GW, then multi & mono will be 50/50. Because we are temporarily limited by the supply of mono wafers.
pv magazine: Can you speak to the progress of LONGi Solar’s capacity expansions? Are you on track to reach 25 GW of ingot and wafer production by the end of this year, and to reach 45 GW by the end of 2020?
Li: There is no change for our expansion progress. But to be exact, today we are already sitting at 25 GW. End of this year, wafer will be 28 GW. End of next year, 36 GW. End of 2020, 45 GW. That is the original plan. No change.
pv magazine: It has been clear that getting multiple pulls out of a single crucible through the rechargeable CZ process has been key for LONGi Solar’s success in the ingot and wafer sector. I see that in August you signed a development with Aiko Solar based on continuous CZ technology. What are your thoughts on rechargeable CZ versus Continuous CZ, and which technology will ultimately become dominant?
Li: Our R&D for Continuous CZ (CCZ) started in 2011 and the study was closed in 2015. Last year in our annual report, we pointed that LONGi has a thorough understanding of CCZ technology. But the reason that we have not used it for mass production is that we believe that Rechargable CZ (RCZ) is more competitive.
For CCZ, there are two challenges. The first is the feedstock. The feedstock of the granular poly still has powder and hydrogen issues. They have to improve the process to remove hydrogen in the powder.
Second is the crucible. CCZ needs to use a double crucible structure, but the cost today is very high.
Those are the two issues for CCZ. If industry can fix these two issues, we can do CCZ overnight. Because all of the machines that we have are compatible with both RCZ and CCZ since 2015.
pv magazine: To follow up on that, since you have this JV with Aiko solar, do you think that these challenges to CCZ are something that can be fixed?
Li: The joint development projects with Aiko is to find out if CCZ can bring more value to the end user. Meaning if CCZ can bear higher cost than RCZ. It is not a technology issue, because we have the technology already.