What is LONGi’s current scale of global operations, in terms of manufacturing and shipments? What has been the performance in the APAC region in 2020 so far?
LONGi has presence in all major solar markets globally. We have subsidiaries in Japan, Australia and India, Europe, the Americas and Middle East. LONGi also has local teams in all GW level solar countries like Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Pakistan. We have more than 50 GW of solar module manufacturing capacity. Most of our wafers, cells and modules factories are in China and we also have overseas factories in Malaysia and Vietnam. LONGi is planning more overseas capacities in the near future.
Our APAC team has delivered a stellar performance in 2020. Shipments to APAC is estimated at more than 4 GW in 2020. As of October this year, we have already crossed the 3 GW mark. We have seen significant increases in demand from India, Southeast Asia, and also Japan, Australia and Korea.
The COVID-19 pandemic definitely has had a negative business impact on the industry and LONGi is no exception. In APAC, we faced project cancellations or delays due to the pandemic. But we ensured close co-operation with customers and partners to seek every possible way to execute per plan. We have full confidence that APAC will recover from the impact of COVID-19 impact, supported by the measures taken by governments across India, Japan, Australia and other countries. We believe that in 2021, the region will fully recover and come back stronger with another round of solar boom.
In terms of global capacity, LONGi is estimated to have more than 23 GW module capacity in 2020, which will be the largest of all PV manufacturers in the world. We thank our customers and partners for their trust, support and confidence and we are committed to do even better in 2021.
How is the APAC market different from other regions? How do countries like India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia fare in terms of overall solar growth?
APAC is different from Europe and the American regions in terms of business growth, culture and government. APAC itself is, of course, a region of many different countries, each with their own dynamic characteristics. For example, Vietnam solar sector’s performance this year is beyond many experts’ forecasts made in the beginning of 2020, across both utility and rooftop segments. The Australian market, in 2020, is driven by residential sector and C&I projects, which is different from what we see in many other countries. Indonesia is emerging as a big potential market, and we hope their potential will be realised soon.
India is always one of the most important and biggest solar markets in the world. Although it is facing some headwinds this year, LONGi has full confidence in the Indian market and will continue to further invest. As much as we can, LONGi will also support our customers and partners in difficult situations. In India, we are working with all major IPPs and EPCs customers like Adani, ReNew, Mahindra and more. With Indian based Sterling & Wilson, we are also supplying for their projects in Australia.
What is your opinion on trade disputes in the light of growing restrictions imposed by countries on import of solar products? What are the other biggest risks and challenges faced by the global solar industry?
We have seen the benefits of free trade which benefits entire world. China, as a member of the WTO, support globalization. Although some countries have implemented restrictions on import on solar products which not only impacts manufacturers such as ourselves, but also our customers, developers and EPCs. LONGi will seek ways to minimise the impact for our customers. We have also been in talks with some governments to have a better understanding as well as to seek a mutually beneficial way to address the challenges.
Besides, the industry has seen significant impact from COVID-19. In addition, the price fluctuations of raw materials used in the production of solar modules like silicon, glass, etc. has created challenges. Yet another issue faced by manufacturers this year has been the shortage of glass and other materials which has impacted all players globally.
To better support our customers, we have optimised our SCM system to ensure a stable supply stream from our suppliers. This stable supply stream is the most important factor as many of our customers’ projects are bound by firm deadlines. When we faced difficulties, we keep inform our customers early and keep close communications to find solutions to minimize any negative impact.
In your opinion, what has been the biggest solar PV technology trend of 2020? How do you foresee the PV landscape evolving over the next 2-3 years? What is the cost and efficiency outlook?
The most significant breakthrough in 2020 is the launch of our 182mm M10 wafer standard and the Hi-MO5 series of modules which are best suited for utility-scale solar applications. Hi-MO 5 is based on 182mm (M10) gallium doped monocrystalline wafers and uses smart soldering technology. The 72c module power reaches 540W, with an efficiency of more than 21 per cent, which can save USD 0.01-0.02 /Wp on BOS cost when compared to Hi-MO4 modules, bringing about lower LCOE and better value in large scale applications.
In the next 2-3 years, we expect Hi-MO5 and the 182mm standard wafers to become the mainstream product for the global utility market. We are also assessing various emerging advanced technologies in terms of cost vs value for commercialization
Solar has proven to be the most cost-efficient source of power. The solar industry has seen a tremendous cost reduction and has emerged as an economically feasible option even without government subsidy. We believe innovations will further drive solar power cost optimization and we can confidently state that solar will become a major energy source in near future.
How do you see the market for floating solar and solar-wind hybrids in this region?
I believe APAC will see raid growth in floating solar and solar-wind hybrids. As it becomes difficult to find and acquire land for solar projects, especially in countries which not have large landmass like India, developing floating solar projects on lakes, rivers, and near the seashore becomes a good solution.
Solar-wind-storage hybrids will also see strong growth in the future. Considering a strong evolution of the grid and the requirement of more stable solar power, the solar plus storage market is already booming in the US, Australia, UK and Japan and will likely see greater implementation in other countries like India. LONGi has been working in close cooperation with its partners focusing on this field.
What is the company’s target and outlook for 2021?
LONGi has full confidence in contributing towards a greener world in 2021. We are optimistic for solar development over the next few years. With 23-24 GW in global shipment, we are on track to be the leading solar module suppliers in 2020. We have put in place the resources and infrastructure to achieve over 40 GW supply in 2021. To ensure that this target, LONGi continues to invest in manufacturing capacities, SCM optimization and continuous technological innovation to ensure that our products and solutions provide the best value for our customers.