PV Mounting System

European Photovoltaics Industry is Booming

  • 2021-04-10

Next to wind energy, photovoltaics is the main pillar of the energy transition. While Germany and Europe in general are still leading when it comes to the research and development of solar cells and modules, the last ten years have seen the transfer of production to Asia. As a consequence, Europe risked losing its technological sovereignty and independence. This trend is starting to be reversed though. One reason is that the share of transport costs in the price of imported modules has increased, another that buyers are placing more value on sustainable production criteria than they did just a few years ago. Regional production has become affordable. In Spain, a start-up company called Greenland has embarked on setting up a highly-automated photovoltaic production line with an output of 5 gigawatts per year. The company uses a vertical integration strategy, which means that they cover the entire value creation chain, from the raw material to wafers, solar cells to solar modules. Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE provides consultation for the project. This covers factory planning, technical support as well as collaboration in the development of advanced cell technology. To ensure that the project can be successful within this highly competitive global market, state-of-the-art, fully integrated, industry 4.0 production technology will be employed. Bosch Rexroth will provide instrumental support with factory planning and construction.

In 2019, the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association, VDMA, commissioned Fraunhofer ISE with a study on the competitiveness of the European PV industry. One of the main criteria for being competitive and achieving low manufacturing costs with local/regional production within Europe identified by the Fraunhofer ISE team was that factories have to be a certain size right from the start. Another significant finding of the study was that currently low production costs of less than 20 eurocents per Watt peak mean that the share of transport costs for modules and components is at almost 10 % now. This shows that local production close to the target market and a local value creation chain are essential for making European PV production profitable and independent from imports. Furthermore, with a fair CO2 emissions pricing system, modules produced in Europe will be able to benefit from the considerably lower carbon footprint compared to imports from Asia thanks to the European electricity mix.

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