After virtually being worn out, German photo voltaic business appears to be like to rise once more

A decade after a wave of bankruptcies all however worn out the German photo voltaic business, the sector is trying to reestablish itself within the face of stiff competitors from overseas.

Overproduction in China and big authorities subsidy programmes in the US mark the wrestle to remain worthwhile for a enterprise that used to increase in Germany.

In Bitterfeld-Wolfen, a photo voltaic cell plant opened in 2021 by the Swiss group Meyer Burger on the positioning of defunct German producer Q-Cells is an indication of a attainable renaissance.

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“We managed to recruit plenty of former staff within the sector, and we’re benefitting from their know-how,” the director of the Meyer Burger manufacturing unit, Jochen Fritsche, instructed AFP.

On the plant within the japanese German metropolis, 1,000,000 of the blue cells roll off the road every day, able to be assembled into the modules that make up photo voltaic panels.

Manufacturing on the manufacturing unit is basically automated, with just a few 50 staff overseeing the continuous manufacturing course of by way of laptop screens.

First, the silicon wafers that type the premise of the cells are dipped in a chemical resolution. Then they’re given a reflective gray coating, dried and reduce in two.

The result of this high-precision industrial course of — the small print of that are carefully guarded by Meyer Burger — is a cell which is claimed to yield 20 p.c extra vitality than the competitors.

– ‘Photo voltaic Valley’ –

“Know-how is the core of our enterprise and it is what’s permitting us to rebuild manufacturing in Europe,” Gunter Erfurt, Meyer Burger’s CEO, instructed AFP.

The group’s manufacturing unit is situated on the coronary heart of what was as soon as heralded as “Photo voltaic Valley”, an space in the midst of former communist East Germany that hosted a excessive focus of photo voltaic vitality companies in its heyday within the 2000s.

German producers had been international leaders in photo voltaic on the time, carried alongside by wholesome authorities subsidies. However the public funding was slashed in 2010, main lots of the companies to go bust.

1000’s of jobs had been reduce in Photo voltaic Valley, whereas Chinese language rivals took the highest spot within the business.

In the present day, Chinese language corporations make up an estimated 80 p.c of photovoltaic manufacturing worldwide, simply as Germany is trying to scale back its reliance on the Asian big and increase renewable vitality capability.

Berlin’s intention to supply 80 p.c of its electrical energy from renewables by 2030 has been boosted by the revival of its home business.

Between January and September 2022, manufacturing of photo voltaic panel modules in Germany was 44 p.c greater than within the earlier yr.

– ‘At all times behind’ –

Regardless of the current uptick the challenges for the business in Germany stay vital — not least a fierce worldwide subsidy race.

In the US, President Joe Biden’s Inflation Discount Act has lined up billions of {dollars} to spice up manufacturing in photo voltaic and different applied sciences.

The European Union responded in March this yr with its personal plan that may make it simpler to financially assist inexperienced industries, however the challenge continues to be awaiting remaining approval from member states and the European Parliament.

“We’re underneath the impression that Europe is at all times behind… in the US, every thing is quicker,” mentioned CEO Erfurt.

Earlier this yr, Meyer Burger determined to increase manufacturing in the US, whereas it’s asking for a 200,000-euro ($211,779) subsidy to up capability in Germany.

Manufacturing prices in Europe stay greater than elsewhere. “Europe shouldn’t be aggressive sufficient in industries that are energy-intensive, however not notably subtle,” mentioned Georg Zachmann from the Bruegel assume tank.

What’s extra, overcapacity in China is pushing costs for photo voltaic modules decrease and making it more durable for European corporations to make the numbers add up.

The problem has already been an excessive amount of for some. Nordic group Norwegian Crystals filed for chapter in August, underlining the dangers for the European sector because it appears to be like to develop once more.

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