Leading solar module makers have pushed into powerful new territory this year. Leading the pack is Trina Solar’s 600W Vertex series module which will reach the market next year, once the company reaches mass production of its Vertex 550W series later in year.

Using a 210mm cell, Trina Solar head of product and marketing Asia Pacific Lim Cheong Boon says a 6 x 10 configuration is sufficient to deliver 600 watts and efficiency up to 21% for the bifacial module.

A larger wafer and 60-cell layout means the panel measures about 2.1m long, slightly more than conventional units, and is slightly wider, Lim says, at 1.3m. “When we increase the power of the module, the number of modules used in a power plant will be reduced,” Lim tells EcoGeneration. “That translates to savings in the other components of the power plant.”

Trina is adopting a low-voltage, high-current approach, Lim says. “One of the key parameters is the voltage, because the voltage directly affects the numbers of modules you can put into a single string.” The optimal solution in the previous generation of design he says was 30 modules per string, but the 600W panel allows up to 33 panels per string.

A 500W Vertex module to be released this year may be capable of up to 36 modules per string, depending on location. “That’s between 10% and 20% more modules per string,” he says. “This will translate to savings elsewhere in the system.”

An upgrade in current, however, requires an upgrade to inverters. Lim says many mainstream inverter makers have already adapted to the approach.

Ahead of the pack

Trina announced the launch of Vertex well before it plans to enter production to allow developers as much notice as possible and prepare suppliers, although in time Lim expects lead times for new products will become shorter as the industry matures.

The 500W Vertex will be available in Australia from October, a 550W version will be released in the first three months of 2021 and the 600W model from the third quarter of 2021.

All variants are available as bifacial or with a backsheet, says Govind Kant, Trina Solar country sales manager Australia New Zealand.

“All the utility-scale projects happening in Australia – a 2-3GW pipeline – are all bifacial because they make perfect sense with trackers,” Kant says. “With the gain in energy you get from a bifacial module on a tracker it makes perfect sense to only use bifacial modules.”

Hard market

Kant acknowledges hurdles for large-scale solar in Australia, with marginal loss factors and forced curtailment perforating revenues for some owners, but the announcement of renewable energy zones and ambitious clean energy targets for some states are evidence there’s plenty of work in the offing.

The 210mm wafer sets the limit for the industry for the moment, Lim says, but wafers might be able to stretch to 217mm or 220mm in the future. “It depends on the demand and innovation.”

Powerful, larger modules will appeal to developers of large projects, but it’s far from the end of the line for 300-400W panels. With rooftop projects making up about half of sales for 2020, Kant says Trina’s range of panels in the 330W and 370W range are in high demand.