May 18, 2024

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Navigating Solar Innovation: Astronergy’s ASTRO N Series: Jack Zhou, General Manager of Global Product & Technical Services at Astronergy

6 min read

Key Highlights:

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  • In the Asia-Pacific’s dynamic market, our ASTRO N7s product leads the charge in residential solar solutions. 
  • With a focus on Asia-Pacific, Astronergy is poised to meet the region’s soaring demand for solar energy. 
  • Astronergy’s commitment to innovation shines through with our advanced TOPCon 3.0 technology.

1. Can you provide an overview of Astronergy’s n-type TOPCon product and its key technical features?

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ASTRO N is the product series of Astronergy’s n-type TOPCon PV module products. The series includes four groups of products, they are ASTRO N5&N5s and ASTRO N7&N7s. To better satisfy global markets’ various demands, N7 and N7s are optimized based on N5 and N5s. 

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Benefiting from the utilization of rectangular wafers and Astronergy’s independently developed TOPCon 3.0 tech, N7 and N7s products have higher power, and higher efficiency and could lower customers’ spending per watt. 

The adaptations of double-layer high-transmittance glass and non-destructive cutting technology improve the module products’ transmittance and environmental durability and increase the bending strength of PV cells. 

ASTRO N7 can reach a maximum power of 615 Wp, and the module efficiency can reach 22.8%. With the support of SMBB technology, the product’s welding strips and main grid welding joints are increased, so then the stress distribution is more uniform to boost the product’s reliability.

Thanks to the SMBB tech we use, the current transmission path of the product is shortened, which reduces the power loss of the module. Meanwhile, the double-glass gap lamination technology is applied, which makes full use of the solar light reflected from the gap of the cell to the front side, and improves the power of the module. From the side of solar system design, compared to the traditional 182*182 square cell products, ASTRO N7 can effectively reduce cable usage, dilute tracking bracket costs, and achieve lower BOS costs and lower LCOE.

Designed for residential application scenarios, ASTRO N7s product is powered by ZBB-TF technology, which enables the product with only thin grid lines on the front and back of the cells, and without pad points. The new tech dramatically reduces the happen risk of products’ hidden cracks and increases products’ appearance aesthetics. Compared with competitors’ products of the same size, N7s’s power is 5~10W higher, and at the same time. 

In the future, all silicon wafers utilized in our products would be thinner, and frontier manufacturing techs such ZBB-TF tech would help reduce more consumable materials, the carbon emission per watt of our products will be lower.

2. How does Astronergy plan to position and differentiate its n-type TOPCon product  from other solar technologies available in the Asia Pacific region?

ASTRO N n-type TOPCon product is a series of TOPCon PV modules which could apply to all possible scenarios. For the floating scenario in APAC, the double-glass structure improves module products’ sealing features and weather resistance. Powered by an optimized encapsulation process, the double-layer coated glass prevents water vapour infiltration and improves light transmittance of the module products. 

All Astronergy modules have passed the humidity and heat performance test and wind tunnel test (60m/high wind speed, which is equivalent to a level 17 super typhoon environment), and have obtained the PIT (Pressure, Immersion and Temperature) test certificate.

Compared to the traditional 182*182mm square TOPCon cell, the rectangular wafers adopted by Astronergy products can make better use of the container space. 

Due to the utilization of rectangular wafers, the loading rate of a single container increased by 4.3%, and the transportation cost of a single watt can be reduced by about 4.1%. At the same time, the rectangular wafer product has a feature of low voltage, which can effectively increase the installed capacity of a single string at a solar plant, thus realizing a lower BOS cost. 

Except for TOPCon tech, we’ve been developing HJT, xBC, heterojunction and other cell techs. But, at least for the time being, the market demands, cost performances and application scenarios of the other techs are not better than TOPCon.

Although HJT cell technology could make a module with a higher bifaciality rate and low-temperature coefficient. However, the tech-powered module has a higher cost, which limits its further development. 

The xBC cell technology has higher conversion efficiency and could ensure the module with a beautiful appearance. However, the xBC product is mainly applicable to high-end residential scenarios with higher requirements for appearance and better price premiums. The complexity of the manufacturing process, low yield, high processing cost, and low bifaciality rate will limit its further development.

3. Can you discuss any recent advancements or innovations in Astronergy’s n-type TOPCon product line that are particularly relevant to the Asia Pacific market?

For the Asia-Pacific market, Astronergy focuses on the development of floating project solutions and high wind load solutions to meet the market’s diversified scenarios. To meet the special needs of customers, Astronergy focuses on strengthening the reliability of PV modules in extreme environments such as high salt spray, high temperature, high humidity, and strong ultraviolet radiation, and developing supporting materials such as glass, frames, and high-sealing junction boxes to strengthen module products’ characteristics of mechanical load, corrosion, and water vapor resistance.

The newly launched ASTRO N7& N7s series products are supported by the double-layer high-transmittance glass. The upper layer is a closed-hole film to improve the transmittance, and the lower layer is a dense silicon dioxide layer, which can effectively isolate the water vapor. 

The upper and lower layers of the film have different refractive indices, to realize the transition of the refractive index from the air side to the glass gradually from low to high, to achieve a better transmittance enhancement effect, and at the same time improve the durability of the products in the environment of high salt spray, high humidity. 

During the manufacturing process, we adopt non-destructive laser cutting, which needs to heat the cell with the laser and then cool the cell, then the thermal stress makes the cells naturally crack to achieve a smooth cross-section without cracks. The process improves the bending strength of PV cells and ensures the overall mechanical load of our modules.

4. Given the dynamic nature of the solar industry, how does Astronergy stay ahead of technological trends and ensure that its n-type TOPCon products remain competitive in the Asia Pacific region?

Astronergy is firmly optimistic about the n-type TOPCon product as our mainstream technology product in the next 3-5 years. As one of the first companies in the industry to realize mass production of n-TOPCon PV modules, Astronergy has built the ASTRO N series with n-TOPCon technology as the core. 

The entire series gives full play to the advantages of diversified main grid technologies such as SMBB and ZBB, and is characterized by high efficiency, high power and high reliability, which enables the series of products to achieve extreme power and efficiency performance and meet the needs of multiple scenarios.

Relying on strong R&D strengths of research centers in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and North Africa, and R&D center in headquarter, Astronergy owns 355 Granted Patents, including 268 utility model patents, 77 invention patents (including 3 international patents) and 10 appearance patents. 

The average efficiency of our TOPCon cell in R&D pilot lines has reached over 26.45%, which is at the leading level in the industry.

We have been keeping a long-term and stable focus on the Asia-Pacific market, especially in terms of product competitiveness. 

In terms of the supply chain, we have a mature manufacturing base in Thailand which could help us to supply the neighboring Asia-Pacific region as quickly as possible to meet the requirements of our customers. 

As an international company, we employ many local professionals. They have in-depth research and understanding of local market needs and provide advice on the latest technology trends and more diverse scenarios, which lays the foundation for product optimization and iteration and maintaining competitiveness. 

5. How do you envision the role evolving in the next few years, particularly concerning the growth and evolution of Astronergy’s n-type TOPCon product line in the Asia Pacific market?

According to a report by S&P Global Commodity Insights, the Asia-Pacific region, excluding India and China, will see a significant increase in installed capacity of more than 80GW in 2024, with demand from more emerging countries still being tapped. 

As a Tier 1 PV module supplier, Astronergy will continue to pay close attention to the Asia-Pacific market and accelerate the development process.

The nominal production capacity of TOPCon cells is expected to exceed 600GW by the end of 2023 (data from PV Info link), and is accelerating the replacement of PERC capacity, with TOPCon cells accounting for about 25% of overall shipments in 2023. It also proves that the n-type TOPCon technology, as a more cost-controlled and mature technology route, has been widely recognized by the market.

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