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Market share of double glass PV modules expected to rise to 5% in 2016
The solar product chain grew obviously in 2015, which was represented by improvement of silicon wafer quality, progress in slurry materials and formulas, and cells with higher conversion efficiencies and modules with higher output wattages, and that the output wattages of poly- and single-crystal mainstream 60-cell modules have reached 260W and 275~280W.

On the module end, in addition to continuous wattage rise, the product has also be gradually transferred to 4-above-busbar from 3-busbar, and the most eye-catching in 2015 was nothing but the double glass PV module which was exhibited in the global solar power exhibition by all solar power factories in succession.

Emerging Double Glass Trend and Higher Visibility of the Product in Exhibitions 2015

As the name implies, the double glass module replaces the backplane and aluminum frame of the ordinary module with glass, and the front and back are encapsulated by glass. In early stage, due to limitations of the price, strength, weight, transmittance, etc. of the PV glass, the double glass module is not prominent as compared with the ordinary module. But PV glass manufacturers launched thin glass with competitive price and better transmittance, and Trina Solar, Canadian Solar, BYD, etc. made a clarion call, so in 2015 the double glass module became popular in an instant.

In view of double glass products exhibited in 2015, the glass with the front and back of 2.5mm is often used for the mainstream double glass PV product at present, and the product warranty is extended to 30 years from 25 years for ordinary modules. The product features no backplane or frame. The reliability of the module can be further improved, and the structural change makes the future cost reduction of the module more imaginable.

The backplane of the ordinary module must face such problems as pulverization, water permeability, and ultraviolet ray. For example, a good backplane also has a permeability rate of 0.92~2.0g/m2 every day; the water permeability can be improved thoroughly in case of using glass. Meanwhile, compared with the traditional backplane, the glass is resistant to wear and corrosion, and the strength of glass is higher, so cracking of snail trails can be reduced. The double glass module also reduces the fire risk arising from the hot spot effect. While the frameless design can put an end to PID phenomena fundamentally, and can also effectively prevent EVA aging. Moreover, ponding, soot formation on edges of the module are reduced, and relatively the generating capacity is made more stable.

Market of double glass PV module: complementary application combining agriculture, aquaculture and PV generation

The double glass PV module is not a new product, but the market was really opened last year. According to the statistics by EnergyTrend, Chinese manufacturers’ shipments of double glass modules in 2015 were grown to about 800~900MW, and Trina Solar, as the main supplier, covered about half of the total shipment, followed closely by Canadian Solar and BYD. In addition, Almaden, JA Solar, Phono Solar, Jinneng, etc. are primary double glass PV module suppliers in China.

Many of the above shipments are used for large power stations in western China, and, the largest unit double glass PV module surface power station is the tea garden solar project in Xishuangbanna; 51MW Trina Solar double glass modules have been installed at the first stage, and it is predicted to install 100MW double glass PV modules finally. Double glass is also used for some large-sized power stations in Japan and Europe.

Due to the resistance to salt mists, the double glass PV module is well-suited to power plants in coastal areas. Moreover, the biggest advantage of double glass lies in optimum transmittance, which can be just matched with complementary elements combining agriculture, aquaculture and PV generation, so EnergyTrend predicts that the shipment of double glass PV modules in China will grow obviously this year.

Weight and cost still to be time-tested

In the future, if the market share of double glass PV modules is desired to be expanded, some problems are still to be overcome by technical progress. For example, though double glass PV module has good fireproof performance, it is, due to use of glass on both sides, much heavier than regular modules to be applied in rooftop power stations. Moreover, without the protection of aluminum frame, the wind pressure tolerance of double glass PV modules is questioned. It still needs test of time whether the fixture used to fix double glass PV modules will suffer damage and deterioration. 

On the whole, the key is still to improve the cost performance of double glass PV modules. Since the fourth quarter of the last year, owing to great demand of the whole industry, PV glass also rises in price, indirectly enhancing the cost of double glass PV modules; but in the long run, the price of PV glass may be squeezed down again with the sustained growth of enterprises using double glass PV modules, so its price competitiveness will be improved then. 

Currently, the price of double glass PV modules is about RMB 4.2-4.3/W (USD 0.545~0.56), only about RMB 0.2/W higher than regular modules. This year, more manufacturers will make volume production of double glass PV modules, so EnergyTrend expects that the production of double glass PV modules can meet 5% of total module demands, possible to narrow the price spread. If the market share of double glass PV modules can be increased to twenty to thirty percent, costs will be equalized as for regular modules due to scale economy of glass manufacturers, and the market share of main modules will be different by then. 
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