IEA Solar PV Global Supply Chains (IEA, Paris)
To fulfill global climate goals, solar panels’ production capability and inputs must double by 2030.
One among the important thing takeaways from the International Energy Association’s recent special report, is that China’s dominance over the availability chain presents an amazing threat to the world’s ability to fulfill its solar panel production goals. However the contry’s renewable energy materials and infrastructure dominance don’t stop with solar. The country can be the leading global producer and processor of the rare earth minerals needed for the magnets that power wind turbine generators. In 2021 alone, China built more offshore wind turbines than all other countries combined over the past five years.
Currently, China controls not less than 75% of each key stage of the manufacturing and processing of solar photovoltaic panels. Its share in solar panel manufacturing has been steadily increasing over the past 12 years, from polysilicon production to soldering finished solar cells and modules onto panels.
To place this into perspective, tn 2010, China’s share within the solar supply chain was 55%, and now it’s closer to 84%.
One among the points emphasized within the IEA’s special report is the importance of distributing global solar panel manufacturing capability. On account of recent and unexpected manufacturing halts in China, the value of polysilicon rose to a 10-year high, which showcased the world’s ongoing dependence on China for supplying key materials for renewables.
To fulfill international energy and climate goals, the worldwide deployment of solar PV must grow at an unprecedented scale. For this to occur, a major manufacturing capability expansion must also occur, which has been met with concern regarding the world’s ability to swiftly develop resilient supply chains.
To get an idea of the sheer magnitude of growth required, the annual solar PV capability additions would wish to greater than quadruple to 630 gigawatts by 2030, with a view to stay on course with the IEA’s Roadmap to Net Zero Emissions by 2050. As well as, the worldwide production capability for polysilicon, ingots, wafers, cells and modules would wish to double by 2030.
One among the best challenges for diversifying solar supply chains is the associated fee competitiveness of existing solar PV manufacturing options. China stays essentially the most inexpensive place to fabricate all components needed for the solar PV supply chain, with costs 20% lower than India, 20% lower than the U.S. and 35% lower than Europe.
The differences in cost might be explained by variations in energy, labour, investment, and overhead costs.
Two potential solutions include constructing solar PV manufacturing facilities around low-carbon industrial clusters and recycling solar PV panels. Constructing solar PV manufacturing around low-carbon clusters can unlock advantages comparable to manufacturers using their products to generate electricity, reducing each their electricity bills and carbon emissions.
Also, constructing manufacturing facilities near other emerging industrial clusters, comparable to renewable-based hydrogen, would help utilize vertical integration and profit from cost-competitive renewable energy sources, thereby increasing competitiveness.
Recycling solar PV panels also offer environmental and economic advantages while enhancing the long-term security of the solar supply chain.
If systems were in place to gather solar panels at the tip of their lifetime, recycling them could help meet over 20% of the worldwide solar PV industry’s demand for aluminum, copper, glass, and silicon and almost 70% for silver. Nevertheless, existing recycling panels’ existing processes struggle to generate enough revenue to offset the associated fee of the recycling processes.
While there was a major focus worldwide on reducing emissions, countries also need to make sure their path towards more sustainable energy systems has a powerful foundation. By way of solar, this implies scaling up solar PV supply chains in a resilient, inexpensive, and sustainable way around the globe.
For this to occur, a bigger investment in research and development is required to make sure we make existing processes more efficient and facilitate the emergence of progressive solutions to current roadblocks.