5 Would-Be European Giga-Scale Solar Manufacturers

Solar’s global shift from fringe to mainstream is a story Made
in China.

The likes of Jinko Solar, Trina Solar and Longi have dominated.
They scaled first and fast — with more than a little help from
the authorities — to capitalize on PV technology’s development
into a 100 gigawatt-plus annual market.

Solar is establishing itself as the cheapest form of power
across much of Europe, giving it a pivotal role�in the
continent’s drive toward net-zero. Now, there is growing momentum
for the modules to be made in Europe. As plans for an economic
recovery post-COVID-19 gather pace, the appeal of green jobs is
expanding and the solar industry takes on strategic importance.

A host of European solar manufacturers are looking to step up to
the plate and deliver the next generation of PV technology. They,
too, hope to benefit from policy frameworks created to prop up
net-zero ambitions.

The trade body SolarPower Europe has established a
solar manufacturing accelerator
with companies across the solar
value chain. Here we focus on companies looking to deliver cells
and modules only.

(GTM Squared subscribers can get a
deep dive
with some of the companies featured in this
article)

Meyer Burger — 5 GW, cells and modules

Meyer Burger has an the inside track on China’s solar
manufacturing push, providing much of the equipment going into
China’s PV factories over the past decade of growth. Such
manufacturing tools make many of the new cell and module
innovations possible. 

Over time, however, the Swiss firm saw its pricing collapse even
as its ideas proliferated. It decided to stop selling manufacturing
equipment and use its own tech to make modules of its own.

Having recently raised fresh funds and acquired former
facilities used by Germany’s SolarWorld, Meyer Burger is now
readying production lines for 400 MW of cells and modules in the
first half of next year. It hopes to scale up to 5 GW by 2026.

As well as banking on technological advantages, Meyer Burger CEO
Gunter Erfurt, says a lower embedded carbon footprint will be
another draw as the industry continues to mature. Erfurt is
advocating for policies to back low-carbon, high-tech solar
procurement in Europe.

Genuine Europe Solar — 2 GW, wafers, cells and modules

A consortium led by Switzerland’s EcoSolifer opened a 100 MW
heterojunction factory in Hungary this summer, using Meyer Burger
technology. The plan is to quickly dial the factory up to 350 MW of
capacity before scaling to 2 GW over the next few years.

EcoSolifer plans to use a range of European innovations,
including silicon wafers from NexWafe, once the company’s
production is up and running. NexWafe, a German research spin-off,
makes the super-thin pieces of silicon required for solar cells
without the dominant method of sawing, which is wasteful and more
expensive. It is likely to also provide wafers to Meyer Burger.

3Sun — 3.3 GW, cells and modules

3Sun is the only contender on the list owned by a major player
in the energy sector, Italian utility giant Enel. In 2019, the firm
switched on a 200 MW production line producing heterojunction and
plans are afoot to grow the facility in Sicily to 3.3 GW by
2023-24.

The utility invested €80 million ($94.4 million) into that
first stage of manufacturing. Having funded 3Sun since it took sole
ownership in 2014, Enel will doubtless be keen to start seeing the
firm registering some revenue.

Enel Green Power owns one of the world’s largest fleet of
renewable energy assets, with more than 40 GW on its books. Enel is
aiming to expand its solar capacity from 2.8 GW in 2019 to 8.8 GW
in 2022.

RCT Solutions — 5 GW, cells and modules

The ‘5 GW + Green Fab’ project is a collaboration between PV
technology specialist RCT Solutions and a host of research
institutes and industry groups including Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE
and VDMA. The consortium is in negotiations for €500 million
($590 million) of financing with investors, and hopes to be able to
rapidly develop a manufacturing facility with 5 GW of capacity by
2023.

RCT has some recent experience in ramping big solar factories.
It was the key partner in the development of an integrated
gigafactory in Turkey, operated by Kalyon Solar. After tendering
for construction in March 2017, the first 500 MW of capacity was
officially opened this summer.

Oxford PV — 10 GW, cells

Oxford PV’s proposition is a bit different to the others but it
could provide a real differentiator for its customers. The
company has developed a transparent perovskite solar cell, which
manufacturers can stack on top of a regular cell and reap the
benefit of additional power generation. A commercial production
line is being established in Germany with hopes of having the 125
MW set-up online by mid-2021. Strategic investors include Meyer
Burger, Norwegian oil major Equinor and Chinese wind turbine
manufacturer Goldwind.

Frank P. Averdung, CEO, Oxford PV, told GTM that as Chinese
firms see the potential of their technology peak at 25.5 percent,
they’ll be left to compete on cost alone. The theory bears
out: Jinko Solar has nearly doubled its manufacturing capacity in
the space of a year as they look to maximize existing tech and
prepare for that battle on cost.

“That’s when we come to the rescue,” said Averdung.

Oxford PV’s cells will lead to more megawatt-hours being
generated but they won’t add to the number of MW of total solar
capacity, given that they are paired with a regular solar cell.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
5 Would-Be European Giga-Scale Solar Manufacturers