A decade ago, in a smaller and more rooftop-driven solar industry, module technology understanding was more obvious, with the module type options confined to c-Si multi, mono or thin-film. There were far less suppliers of modules in the market, and very few changes were being made to mainstream c-Si module offerings from one year to another.
In fact, until about a year ago, c-Si module supply was still largely based on 60 or 72-cell mono or multi designs, with most developers simply seeing the performance improvements coming from moving designs from 3-busbar to 5-busbar.
Only a couple of module suppliers were really offering volumes of PERC to utility projects, but the signs have been clear that some potentially game-changing module supply changes were moving closer to mass production implementation; something that also was mirrored by the only thin-film company serving the global utility segment, First Solar, when it announced its roadmap to roll-out larger-sized Series 6 panels.
In practice however, even during most of 2017, developers and EPCs involved in utility-scale builds have mainly been hidden from the pending module changes that will fundamentally change their business operations in the next few years. Most secondary asset purchases have almost certainly been based on legacy site builds, with the main focus simply being on troubleshooting build-quality issues and agreeing O&M performance ratio targets.
Add in the rapid growth of solar globally, the China end-market moving from a 10GW to 50GW domestically-controlled segment, and a deluge of contract manufactured c-Si modules from countries such as Vietnam, and it is not surprising at all that downstream companies have not been in a position to fully absorb what new module offerings can bring to their business strategies from 2018 onwards.