How Many Solar Panels In A 40ft Container

How Many Solar Panels In A 40ft Container – Large format PV modules are a major development in solar technology and advocates say their appearance could be one of the most significant innovations the industry has ever seen. But many remain unconvinced that bigger is really better.

The containers were placed in the port of Marseille, France. Shipping rates for many routes out of Asia are rising as fewer containers return to China due to Covid-19 restrictions.

How Many Solar Panels In A 40ft Container

How Many Solar Panels In A 40ft Container

Module manufacturers in the 500-watt-plus club are adamant that high-power photovoltaic solar panel projects offer economic benefits to developers. They claim that large format modules produce the best levelized cost of energy (LCOE) and ensure a better balance of cost of system (BOS).

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However, there are people like Dennis Shay, senior vice president of Chinese solar wafers and module maker Longyi Solar, who have gone on record saying that larger module sizes aren’t always better.

Longi Solar is one of the manufacturers that has pursued large format module technology, recently adding a 540 W module to its high performance Hi-MO series. Longi is the main proponent of the 182 mm cell size, with several other manufacturers including Trina Solar, Canadian Solar and Ryzen also moving up to the larger 210 mm dimension to produce larger modules. She acknowledges that higher-power modules have economic benefits, but said this is only part of the equation.

“For large-scale PV power stations, increasing the PV module power by increasing the wafer area is beneficial, to some extent, in reducing BOS and LCOE costs,” he said. “Having said that, the module size is not a question of being better. The boundary conditions of manufacturing cost, transportation, reliability and manual installation need to be carefully considered.

The identification of large format module shipping as a factor to consider is relevant in today’s climate, when air freight costs have emerged as a major challenge for all module manufacturers – even before the recent Suez Canal blockade.

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Ocean freight rates have risen significantly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, partly due to a shortage of shipping containers returning to China, home to seven of the world’s 10 busiest container ports.

Although containers continue to move from China to Europe, North America and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, few return. Data from the local shipping research office of the Shanghai International Shipping Institute indicates that only four out of every 10 containers sent to North America are currently sent back.

Jenny Chase, chief solar analyst at BloombergNEF (BNEF), told PV Magazine that container shipping costs to China and much of Asia have risen dramatically in recent months.

How Many Solar Panels In A 40ft Container

“The WCI Shanghai to Rotterdam freight index, which is in US dollars to ship a 40-foot container, is now at $7,500. It rose from $2,250 in October 2020 to $9,000 in January,” he said, adding that the Shanghai-Genoa route looks similar.

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“WCI Shanghai to Los Angeles is currently around $4,300, the highest in at least 10 years – up from around $1,500 in H1 2020.”

The Freitos Global Baltic Container Index (FBX) has more than tripled since March 2020 for the China-US West Coast route, reaching $5,190 on April 9. A similar increase was seen on the US east coast, and shipping costs also hit new highs in APAC since the start of the year, said David Dixon, Rystad Energy’s senior Asia-Pacific analyst for ocean freight in the UK.

“Shipping rates have gone through the roof,” he said. “We were hearing $6,000 or $7,000 at the top in Australia but now it’s down to $4,000 to $5,000.” Dixon said he expects price pressure to continue at least through the middle of the year and possibly into late 2021.

Indian multinational Sterling & Wilson, which has a global solar engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) portfolio of more than 10 GW in 25 countries, said the shortage of shipping containers was a major problem. He pointed out that the cost of shipping goods by sea has tripled in recent months.

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“Availability of shipping containers is a major challenge during the Covid-19 pandemic, with cargo often arriving late due to shipment delays or cancellations,” said a spokesperson for the company’s Australian arm.

“From India, about 80% of shipments destined for Australia go through Singapore. At one point, there were about 2 million containers in Singapore waiting to be shipped to Australia, with little certainty as to when those containers would be shipped. “

Dixon said the increase in shipping costs is not a solar-specific issue, but agreed that it is having a significant impact in the industry. The cost per unit of conductive modules has quadrupled to $0.02/Wp in 2021 from a recent steady average of about $0.005/Wp peak wattage.

How Many Solar Panels In A 40ft Container

“And that has dramatically increased the capitalization of projects,” he said. “These [price] movements make modules, not that it wasn’t already a significant part of capex, a much more significant part of capex. Enough to eat margins or delay financial closure and start building these projects.”

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Although increased shipping costs apply to conventional and large format modules, high power modules are physically much larger and heavier than modules found on residential rooftops around the world, and present their own set of logistical challenges.

A conventional module measures approximately 2,000 mm x 1,000 mm x 35 mm and weighs approximately 20 kilograms, while many newer large format modules measure up to 2,300 mm × 1,200 mm × 35 mm and weigh more than k30g. There are also larger modules in the market. Beijing-headquartered manufacturer JA Solar recently announced its new jumbo module, which the company says has a maximum power output of 800 W. Although not yet in mass production, the product sheet lists jumbo dimensions as 2,219 mm x 1,765 mm. 40 mm and weighs 43.5 kg.

The size of new generation large format modules is a physical challenge at every stage of the logistics supply chain. The size and weight of modules larger than 2 m² do not allow handling by one person. And when it comes to shipping, standard shipping container door heights of 40 feet limit module sizes to no more than 2,343 mm in width and 2,280 mm in length.

This is a challenge for manufacturers looking to maximize the available capacity in shipping containers.

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Chinese PV manufacturer Trina Solar, at the forefront of the large format module movement, has adopted a new method of packing that it claims reduces shipping costs by maximizing space inside shipping containers.

In March, Trina Solar introduced a new addition to its ultra-high power Vertex series, which the company said will deliver 670 W. Trina Solar has developed a packaging method that places the modules vertically inside the container. The company said the new method allows 558 of its 600 W+ modules to be shipped in a standard 40-foot container, spread across 18 pallets.

Trina Solar said this change equates to a 12% increase in modules shipped inside each container, which in turn reduces shipping costs for each module by 12%.

How Many Solar Panels In A 40ft Container

A “back of the envelope” calculation by Chase BNEF showed the difference in costs between traditional and new large format modules. “Assuming 840 modules per container and 350 W per module, I estimate about 2.5 US cents per watt for Rotterdam,” he said.

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Using figures provided by Trina Solar, shipping a container of 600 W modules to the same destination would cost the equivalent of $0.022/W. Despite the price difference, Sterling and Wilson said shipping costs continue to be a barrier to the use of large format modules.

“Economy of size is a key consideration for high wattage modules,” said a Sterling & Wilson spokesperson. “Until now, large format modules have not been able to provide more module functionality. Although the number of modules per project is reduced, the increase in track pitch – due to the longer length – increases the ground cover ratio and therefore negates the higher wattage of the modules. Therefore, buyers will generally be wary of moving to larger format modules until module manufacturers stop producing some small format modules.”

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David is a senior journalist with over 25 years experience in the Australian media industry as a writer, designer and editor for print and online publications. Based in Queensland – Australia’s Sunshine State – he joined pv Magazine Australia in 2020 to help document the nation’s ongoing shift to solar.

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