Growing Presence: Site visit to Jakson’s module manufacturing facility

Established in 1947, the Jakson Group has diversified from a conventional energy products manufacturer to a fully integrated energy solutions company, providing expertise in the fields of solar power, battery energy storage systems, dis­tributed energy, and engineering, procurement and construction services. It has an extensive presence throughout In­dia with four manufacturing facilities, over 30 sales offices and a wide network of cha­nnel partners and dealers. The group also operates as an independent power producer with ownership of multiple solar power plants across the country.

The company currently operates a module manufacturing facility with an annual capacity of 600 MW, and is at the final stages of integrating another 600 MW fully automated line at its Greater Noida manufacturing facility. This is scheduled to be completed by January 2024. The group commenced its solar module manufacturing business in 2016.

Renewable Watch team recently visited Jakson’s solar module manufacturing unit in Greater Noida for a plant tour, to gain insights into Jakson’s current capabilities and future strategic imperatives…

Solar module manufacturing process

Walking us through the plant and demonstrating the module production process, Alok Agarwal, associate vice president and plant head, Jakson informed us that the factory is spread across 10 acres and is ISO:9001, ISO:14001 and ISO:45001 certified. It is equipped with a fully automated module production line and a waterless non-destructive cutting laser machine for solar cells, which is at par with global st­an­dards. The company currently manufactures monofacial and bifacial modules (including glass-to-glass modules) at the facility. Its output ranges from 144 Wp to 600 Wp, and its power efficiency is over 21 per cent. The factory operates 24×7, manufacturing about 2,400-3,000 modules per day on average.

The solar cells procured from China arrive at the unloading bay, where they are stored under controlled temperature and humidity conditions. Procurement is usually done on a weekly basis. The first step in manufacturing involves the cutting of solar cells into half-cut variants, which allows higher current flow and effectively higher output from the modules. This is done with Autoway lasers, which perform automatic loading, cutting and quality checks of the cut cells with minimum intervention from the operators.

After the cutting, the cells are repacked and moved to the assembly line, which starts with the automatic glass-loading ma­chine. The cells are placed on the gla­ss, from where they are moved to the six parallel stringing lines for inline stringing. These machines are capable of handling full, half and triple-cut multi-busbar cells with up to 16 busbars. They also perform the first inspection for electroluminescen­ce, misalignment and dry soldering during the manufacturing process.

The assembly then moves to the auto-bu­ssing machines, which are capable of adj­u­sting the strings to meet the required di­mension accuracy. The pre-electroluminescence testing machine provides automated testing to detect micro-cracks and dead cells, ensuring that only de­fect-free mo­dules move forward to the next phase of manufacturing. Three-sta­ge double-sta­ck­ed laminators are dep­loy­ed in the lamination process, wherein modules go thro­u­gh the heating, vacuum and cooling sta­g­es. The modules are vis­u­ally inspected aft­er this, and reworked in case of any defec­ts.

The framing process is performed by ro­bots with six degrees of freedom (that is, capable of operating along six axes), en­suring robust, accurate fitting of the modules before they are moved to the junction box soldering space. These machines not only perform the soldering, but also provide automated clearance or rejection at the end of the process.

The modules are then sent to the curing line, where they are kept under the de­sired humidity and temperature conditio­ns to ensure proper gluing of the sealants used in framing and installation of junction boxes. The modules are then subjected to high potential testing as per CE, Bureau of Indian Standards and International Electrotechnical Commission standards. Subsequently, the third and final electroluminescence test is carried out to ensure the structural quality of the photovoltaic (PV) cells and eliminate modules with de­fects generated during manufacturing.

Finally, the modules are subjected to the flash test under Standard Testing Con­di­tions to confirm their power output and me­­asure their I-V curve, depending on whi­ch, they are graded, before being mo­ved to the packing/pelleting area. The auto-sorter machines assist with the final packaging of the modules, which are then moved to the temperature-controlled warehouse for despatch.

Key challenges and future outlook

Regarding the issue of solar PV waste, Agarwal says that the facility has authorised waste handlers to sustainably deal with the minimal waste generated. “We cu­rrently have a rejection rate of only 0.02 per cent, which is well below our targets,” he says.

When asked about the challenge of in­creasing domestic procurement of raw materials for manufacturing, Agarwal poin­ts out that 5-10 per cent of the site’s overall materials are procured domestically. As domestic manufacturing scales up in the country, the company is hopeful that the quality of products offered will also im­pro­ve, and that their numbers can grow higher. “India has a long way to go in terms of the quality of its products. For example, currently, the module glass procured from renowned domestic manufacturers has an average rejection rate of 0.4 per cent due to the presence of defects, whereas the global benchmark stands at 0.001 per cent. This is quite significant, as it can lead to a large downtime and loss of productivity for manufacturers like us,” says Agarwal.

Anurag Garg, chief executive officer, solar product business, Jakson adds that the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme is a step in the right direction, but since the upstream value chain is absent in the country, the benefits from the PLI scheme are uncertain. This is be­cau­se the value addition of Indian manufacturers to the overall product in the value chain is still low. “Only 5-7 per cent cells are made in India, and wafer production is currently zero. This needs to be changed, and with certain big players entering the market with fully integrated operations, it will be interesting to watch the developments in this space in the coming years,” says Garg.

Jakson recently unveiled its latest TOPcon modules with 16 busbars at the Renew­able Energy India Expo 2023, Greater Noida. “The company continues to be among the first movers in the market and will soon introduce the latest N-type technology modules in the market.

On the subject of Jakson’s future outlook, Garg responds that the solar business of the company has grown significantly in the past year, with its revenue growing by three times to Rs 6 billion in the current financial year. Going forward, as it seeks to expand its manufacturing capabilities, the company will cater to the export markets with buyers already lined up in the US and the EU region. “The company is planning to scale up capacity further to 3 GW per year in the next three to five years,” says Garg.