In some circles, especially those who love goldfish, the Chinese company Tongwei Group is best known for being the world’s biggest producer of fish food. In other circles, Tongwei Solar – a subsidiary of the same company, is a very different company indeed. Altogether, it’s a powerful conglomerate that does its talking in the form of billions of Yuan and dollars.
Amid the worsening outbreak of coronavirus, Tongwei has just donated a laudable 10 million Yuan (just over AUD $2 million) towards the fight against the epidemic. Elsewhere, it’s business as usual for the company whose profile in the world of ‘new energy’ product development is on the rise.
As stated above, Tongwei doesn’t just make a lot of fish food – it’s also now the world’s biggest producer of solar cells. To put that into context, the company’s production capacity is currently a hefty 13 gigawatts – which adds up to more solar cells sold in 2019 than have ever been sold in Australia. In total, there are 207 patents in Tongwei’s name, resulting in over 200 awards and honours in China.
But until very recently, you couldn’t really buy a Tongwei solar panel here in Australia. What would happen is that they would buy silicon ingots from elsewhere, turn them into solar cells, and sell them on to the solar panel makers.
Things, though, are changing. Tongwei is a true believer in the growth of the solar power market, having invested a hefty 12 billion Yuan ($2.5 billion) in the effort to ramp up production to an eye-watering 30 gigawatts of cell production within the next three to five years. That would be more than 10% of the world’s entire demand, boosting global production of solar panels from about 100 to 270 gigawatts.
“As we all strive jointly for sustainable development, we see the change of the world and hear the call of humankind,” Tongwei said in a promotional video. “We look forward to a wonderful life in the future.”
2020 has started busily for Tongwei, a company that was created in 2009 amid China’s rapid industrialisation. In late January, it was announced that a three-year, US $1.88 billion (AUD $2.8 billion) contract was signed with LONGi Green Energy, one of the biggest Chinese manufacturers of photovoltaics and the world’s biggest maker of monocrystalline silicon wafers.
LONGi’s wafer supply deal is with all four of Tongwei’s solar cell subsidiaries, adding up to 480 billion ‘wafer units’ of 180um thickness (wafer units are the thin semiconductor slices that are used to manufacturer solar cells). Tongwei already supplies not only high-purity polysilicon for LONGi’s P-type mono wafers, but complete solar cells to the subsidiary LONGi Solar.
Business is similarly good for LONGi, having signed another three-year wafer supply deal with Jiangsu Runyang Yueda Photovoltaic Technology worth about US $1.5 billion.