PV CellTech Talk: Gunter Erfurt, CEO of Meyer Burger, previews new company strategy and direction

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PV-Tech’s head of research and Chair of PV CellTech, Dr, Finlay Colville discussed with Gunter Erfurt, the CEO of Meyer Burger, some of the major changes at the company in 2020. Image: Meyer Burger

Ahead of the forthcoming PV CellTech 2020 Online event, on 27-29 October 2020, PV-Tech’s head of research and Chair of PV CellTech, Dr, Finlay Colville discussed with Gunter Erfurt, the CEO of Meyer Burger, some of the major changes at the company in 2020.

Dr. Finlay Colville asked the questions to Gunter Erfurt, CEO at Meyer Burger.

Meyer Burger has gone through a transformation during the past 12 months. Can you talk about some of the factors that prompted the new strategy?

Gunter Erfurt, CEO at Meyer Burger: “As an equipment supplier, we have seen all the ups and downs of the solar business for many years. Meyer Burger belonged to the companies which brought technological innovations into real production environments and set industry standards as diamond wire or PERC. 

Recently, we were more on the down side, because our technological improvements paid off for our customers but not so much for us anymore. After developing the new, improved heterojunction/Smartwire technology in solar cell and module production, we decided to change our business model from a supplier to a manufacturer of solar cells and modules. This ensures that we will keep this innovation within a captive business model and will use it for our own purpose and profit generation.”

Manufacturing cells and modules in Europe has been challenging during the past 3-5 years. How will the new Meyer Burger differentiate from previous attempts?

Gunter Erfurt, CEO at Meyer Burger: “The answer is our heterojunction/SmartWire technology which will allow much higher efficiencies of solar cells and modules. Also, the new architecture makes new solar applications possible, e.g. solar cells become more flexible, they perform extremely well even during low light periods, they have low aging effects and perform well at high temperatures.”

What are the targets for capacity, line ramp-ups, and efficiency targets for 2021?

Gunter Erfurt: “We will start production in the second quarter 2021 with a nominal capacity of 400MW. This is just a first step on our way to 5GW in 2026. In terms of efficiency we will move into the market of high efficiency solar modules with more than 21.5 per cent efficiencies and a high bifaciality factor of up to 90 per cent. Our recent milestone on the cell level is a certified efficiency of 25.4 per cent on a standard industrial wafer.”

Having a defined end-market for module supply is key to new module companies. What are the target regions and segments?

“As a first step we will target the residential segment, especially in the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), in France and Benelux. Later, markets such as the US, Japan, and Australia will be interesting markets for our products.”

Is there a role now for much of the funded PV R&D activity within Europe that has lacked commercial alignment in recent years? How would this work?

“We find a great scientific landscape across Europe and we are collaborating with partners like CSEM, Fraunhofer ISE and others. It would be desirable if the excellent research were to benefit the European solar industry more strongly again.”

Meyer Burger is delivering a keynote talk at PV CellTech 2020 on Day 2 of the event (28 October 2020). What key themes will be outlined during the talk?

“We will explain why our new path to becoming a state-of-the-art cell and module manufacturer was necessary, and why we think it will be successful. He will also explain the proprietary technology heterojuction/SmartWire and its implications on new products and their differentiation potential in the market.”

Meyer Burger will be delivering a keynote presentation at PV CellTech during Session 3 of Day Two of PV CellTech 2020. The full agenda can be viewed here.

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