The significant capacity expansions of Asia-based solar module manufacturers and the shift of several high-profile U.S.-based producers and Germany-based Q-Cells to locate major production plants in the low-cost region suggest that a shift in the solar industry manufacturing base is ongoing. However, with the official inauguration of SolarWorld’s newest solar wafer plant in Freiberg, the company is putting faith in its ability to remain competitive with its major rivals by retaining a strong presence in Europe.
“This makes it one of the largest investments in the photovoltaic business ever made in Germany,” noted Frank Asbeck, chairman/CEO of SolarWorld. “At all our locations we are producing to high-quality, environmental and social benchmarks setting standards worldwide. Freiberg as the very heart of our worldwide production will be further expanded, and in doing so, we will send out a signal against the industry trend of outsourcing production capacities to other countries.”
SolarWorld is investing €350 million in the new production facility, which will bring internal solar wafer capacity to 750MW by the end of the year.
To remain competitive with low-cost regions in Asia, SolarWorld has automated the entire manufacturing process as well as built facility systems that use less energy and water to reduce costs. An example of cost reduction is the use of waste heat from the crystallization process to heat the entire building, according to the company. The facility also includes approximately 1MW of solar modules on the rooftop.
At the inauguration Germany’s Federal Environment Minister, Mr Röttgen said, “The constantly progressing climate change is forcing us to make our energy supply more and more carbon free. My idea is that by 2050 the renewable energies will cover our energy needs almost completely. A new market is emerging, in Germany and worldwide. It is only through permanent innovation and a brand strategy that the German manufacturers can stand their ground in this increasingly tougher international competition. SolarWorld has adopted a very good approach here, and I am positive that SolarWorld AG will continue to write its success story.”