Located in Chungbuk province in Korea and first established in the country by Hyundai Avancis, the factory of CIGS thin-film solar cell delivers bright and light image through orange and yellow that symbolizes sun. The firm decision and effort of Hyundai Avancis was represented by the slogan ‘150Wp, Dream comes true!’ shown in the broad office. The 3 national flags shown in the conference room seem to symbolize the ardent passion over CIGS thin-film solar cell of Hyundai Avancis, a 50:50 J/V established by German Avancis, a subsidiary company of Saint Gobain, France and Hyundai Heavy Industry, Korea.
Starting business by investing USD 220 million to Ochang Science Complex adjacent to Sejong-si in April last year and holding the ceremony for the completion of CIGS thin-film solar cell factory in the scale of 100MW, Hyundai Avancis is currently operated by 110 people, but the number of employees will be increased to 210 as per plan of mass production in the next year. Having construction site for 4 factories in the area of 212,000 sqm, Hyundai Avancis plans to gradually augment production capacity up to 400MW by 2015.
Finishing equipment set up with automation line for high efficiency & better yield rate and currently improving efficiency of the process, Hyundai Avancis installs domestic equipment up to 20% of total equipment including the main equipment. Planning to gradually increase the portion of domestic equipment, Hyundai Avancis pushes forward to localize equipment in the cooperation of Korea & Germany. Only 1 technician is actually dispatched from Germany, Hyundai Avancis is recognized by Germany for Korean LCD technology which is in the top level and high speed of Korean. Its goal is to complete the basic performance test by completely setting up equipment this year.
Planning to launch pilot products in March next year, Hyundai Avancis has goal to upgrade the performance of module whose photo-transformation efficiency is high. As products of 142Wp and 146Wp are launched in the market, Hyundai Avancis is trying to achieve 150Wp. It judges that although it should adopt the economy of scale to overcome the limit of structure of production cost, it must acquire cost competitiveness with skilled labor & proper infra and heighten barrier of technical entrance by getting technical competitiveness. Checking the theoretically maximum efficiency of crystalline structure and thin-film, crystalline structure cell is 24~25% and thin-film is in the level of 20%. While the efficiency of crystalline structure falls to 18% through module process, the efficiency of thin-film is unlikely to fall with merit to easily improve efficiency without new investment. As the efficiency of crystalline structure rises to the level of 18%, however, it is required to introduce high cost equipment which is accompanied by cost increasing factor. Checking the tendency in the change of crystalline structure market, it is judged that thin-film marketing is opening and situation to compete with comparable competitiveness is ripened. The global economic crisis and relatively weak marketing can be fully potential if attacking BIPV market targeting residential and commercial market by upgrading thin-film module of high efficiency.
Hyundai Avancis is J/V of Hyundai Heavy Industry in Korea and Germany Avancis, the subsidiary company of France Saint Gobain. What is the motive to establish it? Further, please briefly summarize the development made so far.
Considering current difficulty of photovoltaic industry, Hyundai Avancis was born by implementing the attempt to get market competitiveness of photovoltaic business before market situation gets worse. As mass production factory begins to be established in Germany after technical development for some 30 years, it searches Korean partner that has materials & human infra for business, capability of large investment and experience in technical innovation and establishes Hyundai Avancis. Receiving the technology of Avancis that first produced CIGS thin-film solar cell in large quantity in California USA in 1998, Hyundai Avancis first builds automated factory in the country to prepare for mass production of products with high efficiency.
Why did Hyundai Avancis select CIGS thin-film solar cell while crystalline structure solar cell is prevalent at present? What is your prospect of the crystalline structure and thin-film market in the future?
Originally developed for space development for its high stability against energy particle from universe, CIGS thin-film solar cell is module with excellent stability as proven in the field test of Siemens Solar. Although the efficiency of photoelectric conversion is lower than crystalline structure solar cell, its daily generation time in average is longer than the existing crystalline structure solar cell, thereby proving that actual power generation is more than crystalline structure solar cell thanks to distinguished photo absorption coefficient of CIGS. Further, the high efficiency of 20.3% shown in ‘Small Cell’ will be fully noted. Further, the technology to expand the area of thin-film is ripened due to development of LCD industry, the materials cost of solar cell in the form of wide thin-film is lower than that of crystalline structure solar cell. Thus, it is obvious that it has the highest potential in the solar cell of the 2nd generation. Another merit compared to the existing solar cell is that constant improvement is possible through technical innovation in the emerging stage of market.
It is true that photovoltaic module makers in the world desperately compete due to falling price in photovoltaic market caused by excessive supply. The problem is the relation between module price and its production cost in the market. It is well-known fact that even the Chinese makers of Top Tier which has production capacity in the economy of scale are not guaranteed to ensure margin due to falling price.
CIGS thin-film solar cell in the quickening period is recognized as the most potential solar cell n the aspect of production cost and high efficiency. CIGS thin-film solar cell has the merit of CdTe in the aspect of production cost and that of crystalline structure silicon in the aspect of high efficiency. This fact is verified by the case where this potential is realized by CIGS thin-film module makers in Germany, Japan and Taiwan. Considering the limit in saving production cost of the present module of crystalline structure solar cell and the limit in rising production cost caused by high efficiency, thin-film module is likely to increase its market share. However, it is not likely that crystalline structure solar cell disappears in the market and only thin-film solar cell remains in the market. As market can be differentiated, namely, crystalline structure in Utility application and thin-film solar cell in Residential application, they are likely to keep supplementary relation all the time. Naturally, the critical market of thin-film solar cell will be expanded to market occupied by the existing multi-crystalline silicon solar cell so as to expand the share by acquiring market in the commercial and residential area.
The leading overseas companies try to control the market with CIGS thin-film solar cell. What is the own competitiveness or strategy of differentiation of Hyundai Avancis?
In the case of manufacture based on the most advanced technology like semi-conductor and LCD in 1990s’, the technology developed in the advanced country was imported to Korea, where it was fundamental for Koreans to develop their own technology with their speedy work to make prosperous business. Like other manufactures, one of the main reasons is that technical power like Germany, Japan, etc, loses production competitiveness due to relative increase of production cost. I think that this case may be also applied to CIGS thin-film solar cell.
Having lower production cost than Germany and Japan and higher technical power and technical manpower than China and Southeast Asian countries, Korea can be said to have human and material infra which is proper to manufacture CIGS thin-film solar cell in large quantity. Viewing the rapid expansion of CIGS thin-film solar cell production by Japanese companies, the representative semi-conductor of Taiwan to enter CIGS business and the frequent M&A of company specialized in CIGS these days, I am sure that Asia is the most proper region to push forward this new business based on technology. Meanwhile, Hanergy in China is aggressively merging and acquiring company specialized in CIGS thin-film solar cell, which is even threatening. This is because it intends to hold the 2nd generation solar cell market after crystalline structure. Selecting CIGS thin-film solar cell as the business of next generation, both the Japanese company that already has production capacity over 900MW and Taiwanese company that is the 1st ranked company of semi-conductor foundry are eager to develop technology and to accumulate mass production technology. Such movement is also stimulating to us in the same context.
The merit of Hyundai Avancis is that it develops mass production technology both in Germany and Korea on the basis of its technology accumulated for 30 years. We also think that the synergy effect realized by combining the solid technology of Germany and speed of Korea forms our significant and basic physical strength. Indeed, this infra of technical innovation considerably shortens the time necessary for a series of process of constructing factory-importing equipment- operating equipment- developing products in Ochang.
Enhancing efficiency with higher cost competitiveness through improvement of productivity and the uniformity of thin-film with wide area
What is the photoelectric conversion efficiency of CIGS thin-film solar cell that is to be produced in large quantity as the construction of its factory started in Ochang Chungbuk last year? Then, when will it be produced in large quantity?
Although equipment was imported and installed in full scale at the beginning of this year, most equipment is ready for production in just 6~7 months. This is possible due to the resolution and intention of officers and staff of Hyundai Avancis to early settle the technology of CIGS thin-film solar cell for the first time in the country. Considering CIGS thin-film solar cell business as the next generation profitable business than anything else, the atmosphere to realize it can solve the present difficulty of photovoltaic industry. Thanks to the result of efforts made by officers and staff, we get the capacity to produce products which can be immediately sold in the market. However, market is changing rapidly and not only the price of module products but also needs for efficiency of module is also changing fast. Thus, Hyundai Avancis strives to acquire technology and operation method to produce module of higher efficiency at the low production cost. The goal is to launch products that have the highest module efficiency in the world in the 1st half of next year.
While the main issue in the photovoltaic production site is to develop products of high efficiency and low cost these days, what is the latest photovoltaic technical issue in which Hyundai Avancis is interested?
Any photovoltaic module maker will take high efficiency and low cost as representative keyword in operating the company. The shape stuck between the cost below US$ 0.7/Wp shown by CdTe that indicates efficiency of 10~12% and crystalline structure module with high efficiency over 16% is the CIGS thin-film solar cell module business. Hyundai Avancis is getting the 2 keywords by enhancing cost competitiveness through improvement of productivity like Uptime and Yield, saving materials cost through thin-film and increasing efficiency through the improvement of uniformity of thin-film with wide area. Then, the merit of thin-film solar cell is that it can increase high efficiency to certain level by improving the uniformity of thin-film with the existing equipment without any additional process. In other solar cell, high efficiency is possible only by adding new process or changing the structure of solar cell, which inevitably increases production cost. Hyundai Avancis tries to improve the long term reliability of products so as to be competitiveness. For example, if life is improved by 25%, generation business proprietor or consumer can get benefit of reducing the cost to replace module. In the case of CIGS thin-film solar cell, the issue of low efficiency caused by moisture or degeneration of life is checked. The structure and process of thin-film and lamination process is optimized to prevent this problem basically. The other concern is expansion of photovoltaic market. Indeed, the Middle East countries including Saudi Arabia as well as newly emerging US, India and Southeast Asian countries are to invest enormous government fund to new recycled energy and market is rapidly expanding in this region.
We are most interested in differentiating the property of module that reflects the feature of each installation region to attach these markets. For example, consumers in the inferior environment like hot and humid tropical and rainforest climate or hot and dry desert are much interested in module which entirely works without degeneration of feature over 25 years. If such technical issue is solved, the market will be naturally held by the company having such technology.
What is the evaluation of Hyundai Avancis on photovoltaic business this year and what is the business plan for 2013?
As mentioned before, Hyundai Avancis prepared factory and equipment this year and will actually produce module by operating factory next year. Hyundai Avancis is satisfied with the fact that it fully showed its own speed this year. Next year, it will check each technology to produce high grade products satisfying the market needs to realize innovation. Needless to say, the business of next year is also going on at present. It will be more accelerated next year. Establishing the attainment of 150Wp in the 1st half of 2013 as its own goal, Hyundai Avancis will go through the unexplored way. Studying continuously the additional extension planned already, Hyundai Avancis will constantly update its future image.
* Original Article in Korean
(Source: The Dec. issue of Solar Today magazine)