The Module Size Race – Impact on Future Solar Project Development
Any business needs a monetary driver and solar PV is no exception to it. Now with the solar PV reaching grid parity, end customers/ developers/ investors are now keen to further lower its prices to maximize their commercial returns. A similar drive of cost reduction had already been realized in semiconductor where growing the size of the semiconductor chip seemed a much viable option, as it resulted in direct savings by reducing the manufacturing costs. Taking a cue from semiconductor industry, the PV industry started looking onto increasing the wafer sizes. The first major shift was from the industry settled size of M2 to M2.5 (G1) in 2018 which quickly became mainstream. Within the same time other manufacturers also started rolling out their versions of wafer sizes namely M4, M4+ & M6. Introduction of M6 in early 2019 was known to stay put as it was the practical maximum limit of expansion of the then existing cell manufacturing lines. While M6 was in the mainstream, a new wafer size M12 was introduced by end of 2019 with an idea of converging the PV industry to the semiconductor industry. It seemed that M12 was the ultimate option and there may not be any further developments, few industry players in the mid of 2020 started promoting M10 wafer (Figure 1). While there seem to be a clear distinction between these two wafer sizes, the fact that the high wafer sizes lead to higher power output modules at lower manufacturing costs cannot be ignored, which is the idea around which the current developments are encircling.