European Solar Initiative launched to drive continent’s PV manufacturing expansion

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Image: Meyer Burger.

A European Commission-backed project has been launched to scale up Europe’s PV manufacturing industry and capture the continent’s “booming demand” for solar equipment.

SolarPower Europe and innovation group EIT InnoEnergy have founded the European Solar Initiative (ESI) that will build a value chain, from raw materials to recycling, and aim to capture the additional 20GW of annual solar demand forecasted in Europe for the next decade, generating an estimated €40 billion (US$48.6 billion) of GDP annually and creating 400,000 new jobs.

The partners said the project will also accelerate Europe’s climate agenda and economic recovery, contributing to European Green Deal objectives, which require the EU to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Diego Pavia, CEO of EIT InnoEnergy, called for “scale and speed” to unlock PV’s potential in Europe. “The mix of National Energy and Climate plan demand, low cost of capital, notable successes in European technology development and a return of investment into the sector has created fertile ground for a rebirth of European PV,” he said.

The ESI aims to combine the ecosystem of PV players created by SolarPower Europe with the blueprint of the European Battery Alliance, which was launched in 2017 and is led by EIT InnoEnergy. According to EIT, the battery alliance “shortens time to investment, de-risks, accelerates and boosts the robustness” of investment.

“The momentum is building to scale up manufacturing activities in the EU, based on the strong domestic market uptake confirmed in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the sustained technological leadership of European companies,” said Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe.

ESI’s formation comes less than a year after SolarPower Europe launched the Solar Manufacturing Accelerator, which aims to ramp up the amount of PV manufacturing projects, linking them with potential partners and financial backers.

According Capgemini Group, 19GW capacity of next-generation modules could be achieved annually across the EU by 2030. A report from the consulting firm published last year touts the potential of plants for the production of multijunction cells with individual output capacity in the 3-10GW range, with markets such as Eastern Europe, Italy, France, Spain and Germany showing promise for potential sites.

European solar manufacturer Meyer Burger last month revealed it had secured €22.5 million in public grants from Germany to support the establishment of a heterojunction solar cell production plant in the country that will have an initial production volume of 400MW. Production is expected to start in the second quarter of 2021.

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