CEO Interview – SPI 2020, USA. Interview with William Sheng, President of Talesun Solar.
In this interview with PV Magazine Mr. William Sheng, the president of Talesun Solar, confides his view of the PV market, module products with different techniques, and other hot topics.
PV Magazine: Thank you for accepting this interview. Firstly, could you please give a briefing of what new products and solutions will you bring to SPI this time?
William Sheng: We are going to launch the latest generation of Bistar Pro series PV modules at SPI of this time. The Bistar Pro equips with half cut and MBB techs and with power output up to 590W. The type with 182 mm wafer and 72 pcs layout powers to more than 550 W and is a very competitive PV module product. Our onsite test showed with utilizing of the new Bistar Pro module, the general balance of system (BOS) dropped by up to 4.4% and levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) will decrease by around 3%, compared with conventional modules. Besides we will also show our Bipro series bifacial PV module with 166 mm wafer. The Maximum power output of Bipro reaches 455 W with conversion rate of around 20.36% in mass production. This product is not only suitable for large scale utility PV, but also fit the requirements of C&I distributed PV, because of its approaching for lowest LCOE. For the market of residential rooftop PV, we will provide a full black module with 60 cells which is very beautiful in appearance.
How do you think about the US PV market, especially in the new era of grid- parity? What plan do you have on marketing here?
The US PV market is a very important market of Talesun. I think for 2020 this market is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic seriously. Lots of work including new projects have to be postponed. However, the good thing is there would be more time for local investors and developers to prepare for their PV projects with better and cheaper products and solutions. We are optimistic with the performance of US market in H2 of 2020. And in 2021, we believe there will be a rebound of US market for PV installation because of the expire of ITC and those postponed projects of 2020. I think 16 GW is very possible to achieve and this will help US to remain the 2nd largest PV market of the world.
Talesun has a long history of existence in US market. After years of cooperation with our local partners, we established our US office in 2016 and started direct sales in this market. We did a lot of preparations in early stage. Our first local project was in California with 97 MW in 2017. Despite the adverse effects of the trade dispute between China and USA, Talesun is planning to double our US employees for more local business in next year with our Thailand factory capacity.
Any else market which is important to Talesun?
Our business principle is to provide global customers with diversified products and EPC solutions based on different and specific requirements. At present our module products is very popular in markets of Europe, US, Latin America and emerging market like Poland. We estimate to achieve total shipment to Poland more than 200 MW in 2020 which account for around 20% of the country’s total shipment. Meanwhile, our EPC business grew well too in markets of SEA, Europe and Mexico. We have signed an agreement in last December with A2A, the largest Italian power and gas plant provider, which will buy 1 GW solar development pipeline from us.
I know Talesun has established overseas manufacturing base out of China, could you please give a latest update of the global capacity layout?
Talesun is going to obtain around 10 GW for PV module and over 8 GW for solar cell by end of 2020. The company is vigorously promoting the construction of its smart module production base locates in Shandong Province, which is with total capacity of 5 GW and compatible with the new BISTRA PRO 182 series. The commissioning and mass production of the first 3GW capacity is estimated to start since Q4, 2020. Meanwhile, the Thailand factory will be upgraded to 2GW with all production lines compatible with 182 mm cells. We will also consider new expansion plans as our marketing and sales ramp up.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your business? Especially on those important overseas market?
Benefit from the effective counter-measures of the Chinese government, China has successfully controlled the outbreak soon after China’s Spring Festival. We saw a quick recovery of production, supply chain and transportation since March and soon we recovered our normal production in China base. Our Thailand base kept production and shipment to US market during the entire process. We were somehow experienced negative influence on markets of Europe, Latin America but after a series of communications with our customers there, we have minimized the adverse effects. Our sales team take advantage of Internet to keep to take orders. We have signed an agreement of 30MWp distributed solar PV projects development through internet with top Singapore home-grown Solar Independent Power Producer (IPP), LYS Energy Group, in Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) regions. For India market, there was big influence and I have to say we will have a business shrink there.
Our bifacial products mainly shipped to markets of China and US, and occupied around 40% of total shipment. Because weather the US government would add bifacial PV module into the extra-tariff list is volatile, many module manufacturers were still in the wait-and-see stage. But from long-term perspective, the bifacial module is the market trend.
TOPCon and HJT are two candidates for cell technology of next generation, how is Talesun’s view on them? Or any other tech route?
From past months we saw the cost gap between TOPCon and HJT was getting smaller and smaller. For example, the cost cut off of TOPCon in this September compared with in January is about RMB0.38 per watt, while this figure of HJT was about RMB0.24 per watt. This means the TOPCon experienced more cost cut off and was getting close in cost with HJT. But currently we still see the TOPCon lines with less capacity utilization compared with HJT. As tier 1 module manufacturer, Talesun invested in both TOPCon and HJT routes. We have just made our capacity expansion plans of 1 GW HJT cell and module lines, and 1 GW TOPCon cell and module lines.
So how do you think about the wafer size discussion? The 166, 182 and 210mm and what is the influence to solar cell and PV module?
The debate of 166, 182 and 210 sizes started since last year and went through to mass production of these products. I think it is quite normal since there were lots of debates like this in PV’s history. However, the 166, 182 and 210 are not end products, but a middle components. The BOS and LCOE directly relate to PV module whose specifications were determined by multiple factors including wafer, electrical design, layout and etc., and we believe with no matter 182 and 210 size, Talesun can design and produce excellent photovoltaic module for end users. Actually Talesun’s Shandong plant is producing module with 210mm wafer and is also compatible with 182 and 166. Meanwhile our Thailand factory is producing module in 182 and compatible with 166 mm.
The recent cost rise has put pressure on module makers, what is Talesun’s response?
Since this July we have seen significant price rise started from upstream silicon production and then spread to downstream. Now there are several major supporting components of PV module which are still in high prices. PV glass, EVA film, backsheet and frame. Talesun has close cooperation with our suppliers and was supported by them with their best prices, because we have long-term relationship which would overcome the short-term cost turbulence. Besides, Talesun obtains own framework capacity which would keep our free from the influence of aluminum price fluctuations.