Korean conglomerate Hanwha Group has revealed that its PV industry foray that started with the acquisition of Chinese manufacturer Solarfun and last year included the bailout of Germany’s Q-Cells will become a “centrepiece” of the company’s future growth.

Q-Cells, now rebranded, Hanwha Q CELLS was said to become "the platform for the global solar business of Hanwha".

“Our commitment to solar extends beyond building a successful business. We are dedicated to turning solar into the centrepiece of the group's future growth," said Ki-Joon Hong, the vice chairman and chief executive of Hanwha Chemical, representing Hanwha Group.

Having already acquired and rebranded Solarfun as Hanwha SolarOne and pursued efforts from R&D initiatives to rebranding to reboot the China-based module manufacturer's collapsed sales and shipments, Hanwha then acquired a highly differentiated solar cell and module manufacturer in the form of Q-Cells.

Importantly, Q-Cells also included the must-have PV project development expertise in the form of subsidiary Q-Cells International.

However, the key initial conundrum was whether Q-Cells would be amalgamated into Hanwha SolarOne to create a single top five PV company. A year later and that has happened but recent new module technology launches by both Hanwha Q CELLS (see video interview left) and Hanwha SolarOne clearly point to the former Q-Cells cell and module technology being adopted by Hanwha SolarOne, albeit in slightly different specifications, notably in a lower cost format.

That trend looks set to continue with Hanwha Q CELLS driving the technology innovations as the ‘platform’ leader, while Hanwha SolarOne gains upgrades in cell and module performance with a focus on cost conscious adoption, along the lines of a copy smart manufacturing approach with ‘cost’ being the ‘smart’ aspect of the ‘copy’ strategy.

What is not yet clear is whether previous R&D programmes established at Hanwha SolarOne would continue, be shelved or be integrated in Hanwha Q CELLS R&D initiatives.

Project pipeline

Hanwha Q CELLS also highlighted for the first time since acquiring Q-Cells and its project development arm that its pipeline of projects stood at around 500MW. However, the company did not provide further information on the projects and timelines.

Manufacturing update

The company did make a link with the pipeline and manufacturing utilisation rates.

In a statement the company said: ‘Hanwha Q CELLS’ strong market position is further backed by a solid project pipeline. The company’s production facilities for solar cells and modules in Germany and for solar cells in Malaysia are well utilised due to strong demand from several markets such as Japan, and the company has a solid downstream pipeline of around 500MW in the EPC and utility business.’

Hanwha Q CELLS noted that it operated branches in Germany, Malaysia, the United States, Japan, Australia, Korea and Canada. It also noted its ‘Made in EU' certificate, received in March 2013 for manufacturing solar cells and solar modules comprised entirely of European components, which supported installations in France due to customers receiving up to a 10% higher feed-in tariff with the local content clause.

Hanwha Q CELLS, CEO Charles Kim said: “We are optimistic that our production lines will continue to be well utilised throughout 2013.”

A new product generation based on Q.ANTUM technology is particularly expected to generate increased demand worldwide after it is launched in May 2013.

The Hanwha Group also has another feather to add to its cap in the form of a diversified manufacturing footprint that includes Germany, Malaysia and China. The benefits of this should allow better matching of product requirements for different regional markets, not least the need to be able to bypass tariffs and duties such as those imposed in the US against Chinese solar cells and possible tariffs on Chinese PV products in the EU.