Boviet Solar Technology Co. is probably the biggest manufacturer of solar modules you haven’t heard of. The reason being is the company has been an OEM supplier for a handful of brand names you do recognize, but that’s all about to change. We sat down with Boviet Solar USA, the North American arm of Boviet Solar Technology Co. Ltd. at Intersolar in San Francisco to hear more about its upcoming plans.
The future of Boviet starts with branding its own modules. The company began this process in 2014 and invested heavily in more research and development and a new 1,070,000-sq-ft factory in Vietnam. Inside that factory is the development not just of a new module with the new Boviet branding, but what the company believes is the beginning of a big shift toward lower-cost, high-efficiency modules — a category they have been basically trying to create on their own between 2014 and now.
What is PERC?
Let’s start with the technology, Boviet’s new line of Passivated Emitter Rear Contact (PERC) solar modules. PERC technology improves conversion efficiency by adding a dielectric passivation layer at the rear of a solar cell, helping maximize the electrical gradient across p-n junctions for a steadier flow of electrons, hence greater efficiency.
Boviet’s modules have obtained all certificates and passed the industry’s highest long-term reliability tests, exceeding the IEC standards.
What about costs?
High-efficiency modules are great, but certainly not new, and they aren’t as widely deployed as they should be because of the higher price point. PERC technology fell into this Catch 22-like trap too: the mass production hasn’t been there because it has been difficult to reduce costs. And how do you start to drive down prices? Through mass production.
Boviet’s goal was to bridge this gap, so it focused on R&D and engineering following its acquisition by Powerway Alloy Materials Co., which led to new strategies and efficiencies in the manufacturing of advanced PERC technology. Boviet can now produce high-tech products at a large scale and is doing so. So basically, Boviet has been producing the mass quantity needed to drive down the costs of PERC.
“The solar market has been anticipating the widespread adoption of PERC technology for some time, but it has been difficult to manufacture at scale,” says Eric Ma, president and managing director of Boviet Solar USA. “Thanks to both financial and R&D support from our parent company, Powerway Alloy, we have been able to expand our PERC manufacturing capabilities and increase production. Our goal is to become the foremost innovator in the manufacture of PERC-based solar modules.”
Volume on the way
As mentioned, the Powerway Alloy Materials Co. acquisition infused a capital investment that has helped accelerate expansion of Boviet’s state-of-the-art solar cell and module manufacturing facilities in Vietnam, from 280 to 660 MW as of June 2016. Right now the new facility is ramping up to 400 MW of PERC and 260 MW of standard modules, but soon that will be dedicated to PERC too, totaling 700 to 800 MW of PERC production at the facility in 2017.