Germany’s Solar Industry Aims for Renaissance
Reviving the German Solar Industry
Photo by Jens Schlueter. Video Julien Gathelier
The Resurgence of the German Solar Industry
After facing a wave of bankruptcies a decade ago, the German solar industry is now seeking to make a comeback amidst tough global competition.
Previously, overproduction in China and generous government subsidies in the United States posed challenges to profitability for German solar businesses.
A Sign of Hope
In Bitterfeld-Wolfen, a solar cell plant has opened its doors, signaling a potential renaissance for the industry. The plant, run by Swiss group Meyer Burger, stands on the site of the defunct German producer Q-Cells.
Meyer Burger’s factory benefits from the expertise of former employees in the sector, who contribute their knowledge to the plant’s operations.
At the factory, a million blue cells are produced daily, ready to be assembled into solar panels. The production process is highly automated, with around 50 employees overseeing the manufacturing process through computer screens.
The cells undergo a precise industrial process, resulting in cells that yield 20 percent more energy than competing products. The exact details of the process are closely guarded by Meyer Burger.
According to Gunter Erfurt, Meyer Burger’s CEO, technology is at the heart of their business and enables them to rebuild production in Europe.
Germany’s Solar Valley
The Meyer Burger factory is situated in what was once known as “Solar Valley,” an area in former East Germany that boasted a concentration of solar energy businesses in the 2000s.
During that era, German manufacturers led the global solar industry, fueled by government subsidies. However, funding cuts in 2010 resulted in many businesses going bankrupt.
Challenges and Opportunities
Following the decline of the German solar industry, Chinese companies now dominate global photovoltaic production, accounting for approximately 80 percent of the market. As a result, Germany is seeking to reduce its reliance on China and expand its own renewable energy capacity.
Germany aims to produce 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and the revival of its domestic solar industry contributes to this goal. In fact, solar panel module production in Germany increased by 44 percent between January and September 2022 compared to the previous year.
However, the industry still faces significant challenges, including intense international subsidy competition.
In the United States, President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act provides billions of dollars to boost solar and other technologies. In response, the European Union has developed its own plan to financially support green industries. However, this plan is awaiting final approval from member states and the European Parliament.
Meyer Burger has expanded its production in the United States and is requesting a subsidy of 200,000 euros ($211,779) to increase capacity in Germany. Despite the recent uptick, manufacturing costs in Europe remain higher than in other regions.
The Need for Faster Action in Europe
Meyer Burger’s CEO, Gunter Erfurt
Read More of this Story at www.barrons.com – 2023-10-22 02:45:23
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