Germany takes a bow as PV market leader

by Debra Vogler, Senior Technical Editor, Solid State Technology

Sept. 19, 2008 – Among the presenters at DisplayBank’s 3rd annual San Jose Conference last week (Sept. 9) was Claus Habermeier, director at Invest in Germany, who presented data showing Germany’s formidable PV market (Fig. 1). The country enjoys a 49% market share with a turnover of €5.7B in 2007. According to Habermeier, the PV market boomed in Germany in 2004 following amendment of its Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), which helps secure the demand for PV technology by, among other provisions, enabling projects installed in 2008 to have a guaranteed 20-year constant feed-in tariff of 35.49 €cent/kWh for solar parks and up to 46.75 €cent/kWh for façade systems. A draft amendment to the EEG act proposes higher degression rates for PV feed-in-tariffs (Figs. 2, 3).

Feed-in tariffs are considered key because rates are locked in when the system is installed. Other countries that fare relatively favorably with respect to feed-in tariffs are Spain, Italy, France, and Greece. In the US, only California provides for them.

Among the PV success stories touted by Habermeier is that of First Solar (CdTe), which chose Frankfurt/Oder in eastern Germany for its first large production plant. Among the financial incentives provided to the company were €115Mil in investment volume (i.e., the amount invested in the project), €45.5 Mil in financial incentives, a 40% cash grant intensity (i.e., the percentage of total investment volume returned in the form of a cash grant). The location process was also streamlined: four months for EU comparison and site selection, four months for permits and incentives, and five months to complete the building construction. Other companies located in Germany include EverQ, Arise, Nanosolar, Sunfilm, and Signet Solar.

Figure 1. Germany is by far the worlds’ largest PV market, with a turnover of €5.7Bn in 2007. (Source: Invest in Germany.

Keshav Prasad, VP of business development at Signet Solar, a manufacturer of thin-film silicon PV modules on large area glass substrates, described the company’s first factory in Germany. The first product was released in May of this year, followed by pilot production in July; the first customer shipment is expected next month (October), and the first installed system is slated to be complete by year’s end. The company anticipates expanding its capacity in Germany later this year with a ramp up to 130MW by 1Q10. It also has a manufacturing facility in India being readied for 2009 with a ramp-up to 330MW by 2012.

Signet Solar’s base technology — micro-crystalline silicon thin-film PV — is licensed from Applied Materials, but Prasad noted that there is significant room for innovation, particularly in improving efficiencies in conversion, manufacturing, and the supply chain. “The goal is to take the core platform technology provided by Applied Materials and to further reduce the cost of manufacturing solar PV modules,” he told SST. Some of this work will be done by Applied Materials and some by module manufacturing companies such as Signet Solar, he added.

Examples of improvements cited by Prasad include: reduction of cost through new material development and advances in equipment design; manufacturing of high efficiency tandem (a-Si/μc-Si) and triple junction devices at industrial scale; new deposition approaches; and the design and construction of proprietary fabrication technology.

Figure 2. Recent amendments of the Renewable Energy Sources Act confirm strong incentives for PV investments in Germany. (Source: Invest in Germany.

Prasad made the case for thin-film solar PV technology, saying that it has a 40% lower module manufacturing cost than crystalline silicon (c-Si), and currently the installed thin-film PV system cost is $4/Watt vs. $6/Watt for a c-Si PV system. Citing EPIA (European Photovoltaic Industry Association) data, Prasad told attendees that the thin-film PV market share is forecasted to increase to 40% by 2020. The company is targeting grid parity for silicon thin-film PV modules by 2012. — D.V.

Figure 3. Feed-in tariffs following recent amendments of the Renewable Energy Sources Act remain a strong incentive for PV installations. (Source: Invest in Germany.

Disclaimer: All information provided by Invest in Germany has been put together with the utmost care. However, they assume no liability for the accuracy of the information provided.


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