China’s quest for progress in the solar industry moves forward with the announcement that Tongwei is spending $1.8 billion on the expansion of two solar cell plants. For perspective, this would make the company the biggest manufacturer of solar generation in the world. The country has already passed their solar energy capacity goals for 2020 and this would further catapult them as a worldwide leader.
The first solar energy plant will be located in Hefei, which is the capital and largest city of the Anhui Province. It’s on the extreme east side of China. Chengdu, which is the capital of the Sichuan Province, is located in the southwestern part of the country. There’s roughly a 950-mile difference between the two cities.
Both facilities will have an annual solar cell production rate of 10 gigawatts, and it will help achieve Tongwei’s goal of creating up to 30 gigawatts per year. At the moment, the company creates just 5.4 gigawatts each year, but that will escalate to 9.7 gigawatts once current construction of other capacity is completed by the end of 2018. Right now, JA Solar is the biggest manufacturer at 6.5 gigawatts.
In order to reach their lofty expectations, Tongwei will have unmanned production of their monocrystalline solar cells. According to their website, these cells have anywhere from 17 to 19 percent efficiency. Products will still go through thorough testing and they anticipate lengthy durability. Cardboard and sponge materials are used for inner packaging.
What’s currently being worked on are two smaller production lines in the cities of Chengdu and Hefei at roughly two gigawatts each. It was announced back in September that these would be completed by the end of next year and Tongwei president Xie Yi said they could bloom to “20 or 30 gigawatts in the future.” Production could begin at this capacity in the next three to five years, and if successful, they could see annual revenue hit $3.6 billion US.
Tongwei’s boost in solar cell production was aided by the purchase of LDK Solar Hefei back in 2013. The acquired company was flirting with bankruptcy at the time, but it was able to come back and help Tongwei hit production capacity of 2.4 gigawatts a few years later. In 2016, Tongwei set a goal to reach 10 gigawatts of production by 2020 and it is on pace to reach that two years early.
Like most of China’s solar industry, Tongwei is surpassing previous goals. The country wanted to hit an installation capacity of 105 gigawatts by the end of 2020. Last July, they achieved 112.34 gigawatts. Over 200 gigawatts are expected to be installed by the old goal date, and with more production coming, that number could increase even more.
Automated solar cell production plants are also a factor in these skyrocketing numbers. This would increase production efficiency by 25 percent with less workers on the production line and reducing energy consumption by 30 percent. All of this would result in lowered costs for manufacturing.