Germany’s Fallen ‘Photo voltaic Valley’ Sees New Life as Meyer Burger Buys Former SolarWorld Manufacturing unit

As soon as bustling with PV analysis and manufacturing, Germany’s “Photo voltaic Valley” fell quiet lately as China gained management of the worldwide PV manufacturing sector. However the fabled valley might quickly spring again to life.

Switzerland’s Meyer Burger, a long-time provider of high-tech equipment to photo voltaic producers, has acquired a former SolarWorld manufacturing unit and revealed plans to nurture what might grow to be a 5-gigawatt European PV manufacturing hub in central Germany. Final month Meyer Burger introduced a strategic pivot that can see it rework right into a PV module maker in its personal proper.

Whereas China nonetheless dominates the worldwide PV provide chain, the rising automation of manufacturing traces and surging photo voltaic demand in Europe might open the door to a rejuvenation of Europe’s once-mighty PV manufacturing sector. Europe’s net-zero goal and the coronavirus financial restoration package deal have additional improved circumstances for a comeback.

Situated in Freiburg, to the west of Berlin, the previous SolarWorld manufacturing unit has the capability to supply 600 megawatts of modules a 12 months and might be expanded to 800 megawatts. Meyer Burger can be buying a 14,000-square-meter distribution heart from SolarWorld, giving it area to broaden module manufacturing as much as 5 gigawatts by 2026. On the identical time, the corporate is renting the positioning of former German photo voltaic cell producer Sovello, the place it plans to supply heterojunction photo voltaic cells.

Meyer Burger will initially deal with making high-efficiency PV modules for the rooftop market, a product that may be offered at a premium worth.

The corporate says it can make a revenue even with an output as little as 400 megawatts a 12 months and could possibly create three,500 jobs in the long term. Prospects in Europe and the U.S. have already signed letters of intent to buy 2 gigawatts of modules, the corporate claims.

The ultimate piece of the transformation puzzle required Meyer Burger’s shareholders to approve a brand new share challenge, which they did on Friday. The focused elevate is 165 million Swiss francs ($175 million) with a minimal threshold of 150 million Swiss francs, paving the way in which for the corporate’s dramatic strategic pivot.

“We’re trying ahead to revitalizing two of probably the most conventional photo voltaic places in Europe and creating new jobs,” Meyer Burger CEO Gunter Erfurt mentioned in an announcement. “The truth that we’re ready to make use of present infrastructure and the excessive degree of experience within the areas is a acutely aware strategic resolution that can allow us to realize quick ramp-up occasions and excessive product high quality.”

European photo voltaic producers, of which SolarWorld was the most important, misplaced their edge as Chinese language modules outcompeted them not solely on worth however in lots of circumstances additionally in high quality. Lots of Europe’s main photo voltaic producers went bankrupt, or exited the sector, particularly between 2012-2017, together with BP, Bosch and SolarWorld itself.

“Meyer Burger establishing its manufacturing of the most recent era photo voltaic cells and modules in Germany marks an vital milestone for the revival of photo voltaic manufacturing in Europe,” the commerce physique SolarPower Europe mentioned in an e-mail. “By our Photo voltaic Manufacturing Accelerator Platform, we now have highlighted 10 shovel-ready initiatives, that includes the manufacturing and innovation of cells, modules, and wafers, which symbolize greater than 20,000 new jobs in Europe.”

These 10 initiatives embody one other 5-gigawatt proposal from RCT Options and a direct wafering growth from NexWafe. NexWafe makes the silicon wafers required for photo voltaic cells by skimming the cooled floor off a vat of silicon relatively than slicing them from blocks, leading to enormous materials financial savings.

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