Delighted to see such a positive development in India: Heraeus Photovoltaics

Delighted to see such a positive development in India: Heraeus Photovoltaics
Weiming Zhang

Dr. Weiming Zhang | Senior Vice President Commercial & Technology HPT | Heraeus Photovoltaics.

Germany based Heraeus is one of the leading developer and manufacturer of silver metallization pastes for the photovoltaic industry.  For over 40 years, Heraeus has built a reputation of innovation, extensive research and new product development in thick film technologies for some of the most prominent companies within a variety of industries.

In a candid chat with Saur Energy’s Santanu Mukherjee, Dr. Weiming Zhang, Senior Vice President Commercial & Technology HPT, harped on the company’s latest paste technology and promising plans for the Indian market. Edited Excerpts.

  1. Early this year in March, Heraeus established regional product modification lab in Japan. The strategy behind the setup and importance of the local setup for the company?

Japan represents an important market for Heraeus Photovoltaics. It represents over 8% of the worldwide supply of solar cell manufacturing and 18% of global PV installation. As markets in Asia continue to grow and Heraeus customers’ technologies evolve rapidly, the network of regional product innovation abilities is a cornerstone for the company to further explore the photovoltaic markets. By establishing our PMLs close to the markets, we are able to understand changes in our customers’ needs constantly and provide them with superior products in shortest response time.

  1. What kind of investment commitments you had to make?

Japan marks the third Heraeus regional PML to open in Asia in the last 12 months. It complements the installation of two regional PML’s, one in Shanghai, one in Taiwan, in early 2015. The speed of business and innovation are moving at breakneck speeds, and the PV industry is no exception. We will be able to better serve our local customer needs with customized solutions and advanced products and do it faster.

  1. From business perspective, will the need of being customer-centric make you go places like India where solar market is flourishing?

We have a long history in serving customers from India and are delighted to see such a positive development. Customer and market needs are always the key focus of strategic business decisions at Heraeus.  Now that we see the PV market in India thrive, we for sure closely observe the trends in this region and will derive suitable strategies, which might comprise a further expansion of our local capacities, solidifying our strong commitment to this PV market.

  1. If we look few years back, use of silver in the metallization paste was considered a big deal but now the silver cost has gone down. What are the issues still faced in this domain?

Other than 10 years ago today’s standard solar cell technologies use around 120 to 150 milligrams of silver, making up around 20 per cent of the total cost for a solar cell. Considering the fluctuating price of silver solar cell makers permanently look for ways to lower the cost of their product. In other words, the silver price gives solar cell makers incentives to reduce the amount of silver used per cell. Heraeus as a worldwide leading supplier of silver-based metallization paste supports this efforts by innovative silver-based metallization solutions which offer enhanced cell efficiencies at reduced silver levels. As a result, the amount of silver used in solar cells is being reduced by around 5 to 6 per cent every year. Heraeus significantly invests in R&D to improve the solar cell metallization technology to further reduce the cost and supply the most efficient products.

  1. A lot of Chinese companies are trying to get into equipment space in terms of supplying material for PV. Can you comment on how this competitive landscape is changing?

Our global market leadership is based on our consistent strengths in four core competence areas: Strong R&D, fast scale-up capacities, focus on uncompromised, high quality in supply chain as well as production and an unparalleled application service. In combination with our strong IP-portfolio and our long-term experience of more than 45 years in paste manufacturing, we offer our customers a true value proposition, providing them with competitive advantages. Of course do we carefully observe the competitive situation in China but have not seen any emerging company being capable of providing a comparable, consistent portfolio of strengths like ours.

  1. What is the driving parameter you are witnessing this year in terms of volumes, on region or technology basis?

Generally speaking is Cost in Use, first is efficiency (LCOE), secondly, is the cost of technology. Recently, PERC almost has been commercialized and it will have an increasing demand in the next 2-3 years; the third is the government subsidy which will also support.

  1. I would like to know the reason behind two recent advanced PERC metallization paste series SOL9631 and the SOL326?

Heraeus is one of the pioneers supporting PERC technology and today has a leading positioning supply PERC paste. Now that PERC is on the track to become a widely used standard technology – we, of course want to support our customers to successfully follow this trend, in supplying enabling material. The new products, SOL9631, a low-temperature front-side paste for PERC, and SOL326, a low-activity back-side silver tabbing paste, are offered as part of a PERC package. Customers can achieve higher PERC cell efficiencies, reduced LID and improved module reliability.

  1. Tell us about the brand-new glass chemistry used in SOL9631 front-side paste series developed and manufactured by Heraeus?

The SOL9631 front-side paste series features a unique brand-new glass chemistry, exclusively developed and manufactured by Heraeus, combined with the latest breakthrough in organic vehicle system for ultra-fine-line printing. The paste can be fired at low temperatures, making it specifically suitable for PERC solar cells. The densified microstructure of the fired finger, including the Ag-Silicon interface, enhances adhesion, grid resistivity and solderability.

  1. You have been in the market for more than a century now, how do you see the solar market changing globally?

Heraeus believes that output of PV modules will increase by 60% until 2030, bringing up a standard 60 cell module to over 500W. And the levelized costs of renewable energy will be able to decrease by 50% every five years. Renewable energy is competitive today and will become the most cost effective source of energy. Advancements in photovoltaics technology expected to drive significant cost reductions and accelerate global adoption, making it the world’s energy source of choice.

  1. What is your prediction on the renewable energy market in India slated by 2022?

Heraeus is convinced that the levelized costs of renewable energy will be able to decrease by 50% every five years. And India now is already a flourishing market and for sure will have a significant increase in 2022. According to analysts India will be amongst the nations with the highest growth rate in electricity demand in the nearer future. To accommodate this growing demand and at the same time reduce CO2-emmissions, the share of renewable energy will also increase significantly.  Heraeus contributes to the increasing importance by providing technologies which make the generation, storage and distribution of renewable energies sustainable, efficient and affordable.

With our technologies we help to make the generation, storage and distribution of renewable energy sustainable, efficient and affordable.” Beyond PV-related products such as metallization paste for solar cells Heraeus offers a broad portfolio of products in for the generation, storage and distribution of renewable energy.

  1. Can you share with us your metallization paste customers in India and do you see the number growing after government of India’s 100GW target solar power by 2022?

We are working with almost all cell producer for India market, and expect them have a capacity at least double or even triple by 2022.

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