Woongjin Energy is manufacturing high-quality ingots and wafers to secure the best productivity in monocrystalline silicon field. The company applies new ‘diamond wafer’ technology when they cut an ingot for making wafers. Lee Jae-gyun, CEO of Woongjin Energy, talks to InterPV magazine about their continuous efforts to achieve their goal─releasing cost competitive and high-efficiency products to suit various market conditions.
Reported by Stella Y. Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
How did Woongjin Group first become interested in the solar industry and in becoming a solar energy provider?
Woongjin who grew through Publishing & Environment-friendly appliances business took solar PV stage for our big moment. While we’re doing ‘due diligence’ before launching a new business, we found renewable energy has great prospects. Renewable energy seems to be more promising due to increased energy consumption, fossil fuel being exhausted and some environmental issues. It also has concurred with Woongjin’s environment-friendly management philosophies. Woongjin Group is leading solar business by establishing Woongjin Energy in 2006 and Woongjin Polysilicon in 2008.
In a continuing economic downturn of the global solar industry, what is Woongjin Energy doing to overcome the difficulty?
Woongjin is dealing with a crisis by expanding high-quality wafer sales introducing new process. It has been a significant change in our current ingot-oriented business.
Woongjin Energy is equipped with the world’s first diamond wafer manufacturing system to try to apply new methods. With our experiences and know-how accumulated via challenging the new methods, Woongjin Energy will have more strength.
Can you tell me Woongjin Energy’s business focuses this year?
Of course, we’re making efforts for high PV efficiency and cost decrease. In order to do so, we should focus on the wafer business struggling to reach the global level rather than the ingot business which is already world-class.
Diamond wafer is accepted to be outstanding compared with conventional slurry in terms of quality, productivity, and environment in the field, but needs to increase market competitiveness. Acquiring price competitiveness of the diamond wafer should be part of the overall drive to improve competition in business this year.
What’s the present condition of Woongjin Energy’s technology development? What about your technology roadmap?
Woongjin is trying to develop technologies to raise output of ingots. For example, we’re reducing ingot growing time, curtailing the period of ingot production via multi-pooling, and using a world-class technology for the purpose of reducing costs on a unit.
In terms of wafers, it’s going to be on ramp-up stage from the pilot stage. The question is, how many wafers are produced from a part of the ingot. The yield rate was volatile in the early part but recently improved its stability, so we expect it’s going to be cost-competitive.
What makes Woongjin Energy different from the other competitors in the PV field?
Compared to other companies, Woongjin Energy only produces and sells monocrystalline ingots & wafers for manufacturing high-efficiency solar cells. We have production scale of ingot of 1 GW and wafer of 500 MW. Our ingot is used to manufacture the solar cells with world’s highest efficiencies up to 24%. Our high-quality wafer of ‘diamond wire saw process’ improves productivity and effectiveness by thinning wafer.
Are you planning to expand your production capacity?
We’re adjusting the speed of capacity expansion considering the market situation. As you know, Woongjin Energy has reached capacity of ingot of 1 GW and wafer of 500 MW and announced to add 3 more factories for producing 1 more GW to both ingot & wafer. We’re keeping up with the rapidly changing business environment. I think it’s very important to make production capacity of ingot & wafer well-balanced.
How will the solar industry look in later this year? Do you expect growth of Woongjin Energy?
Even though we predict with a conservative view, we believe that there will be higher growth in PV market than last year. While Europe is shrinking its PV FiTs, non-European countries including China, Japan, Middle East and the U.S.A. are showing strong growth so solar installation is expected to grow this year.
However, in this situation, the market growth wouldn’t mean a lot of entrepreneurial growth. Now is the kind of time to separate the companies which are competitive from the ones which are not. Apart from the market situation, becoming cost-competitive is most important key to success.
Solar module prices are decreasing due to Chinese module manufacturers dumping products and over-supply in the market. What is your strategy in response to this trend?
The only way to deal with the current market is producing high-quality, low-cost products. If you look at the semiconductor market in the past, a sharp drop in prices can cause brief rally but ends up in lowering the current price. It’s important to be able to produce in line with the prices in the world markets. It should not just save money but realize cost-effectiveness based on technology.
What is the company’s goal in solar PV field?
Woongjin Energy aims for top of the world in crystalline solar ingot & wafer manufacturing. To do so, Woongjin is going to offer its own best value to customers by manufacturing high-quality, high-efficiency products based on cutting-edge technology. We believe these efforts we make to promote wide spread use of solar PV are ways to make people conscious of PV and to play a part to help keep the world environmentally friendly.
What foreign markets are you targeting? What are your strategies of advancing to the foreign market?
We have strength in manufacturing high-efficiency n-type ingots/wafers. N-type is expected to be on an upward trend in the trade because it’s better than p-type in terms of efficiency. Woongjin’s n-type ingots & wafers already clicked with customers so when it comes to cost competitiveness, it is not difficult for us to find a market anywhere in the world. However, we should focus on the shift that solar market moves from Europe to Asia and North America
What kinds of contributions do you think Woongjin Energy’s technology make to the PV industry?
In situations of limited resources, we should use less resource and devise clean energies. Woongjin Energy is manufacturing high-efficiency wafers based on eco-friendly process and minimizing ineffective use of resources in follow-up process. And, we lead the technological innovation by introducing diamond wafers and suggesting the potential of solar PV in Korea. Our efforts are playing a significant role in PV industry, I believe.
Stella Y. Lee is Editor of InterPV. Send your comments to email@example.com.
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