Sunny Days Again for German Solar

The solar industry in Germany has emerged from a period of slow growth and is back on track, thanks to the country’s ambitious climate goals and a little help from international companies.

November 2021

Just three years after Germany’s once high-flying solar manufacturer SolarWorld was forced into bankruptcy due to falling industry prices and seemingly unbeatable competition from China, production lines are back up and running again at the company’s former sites. That’s all thanks to major new investment from Swiss solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer Meyer Burger.

“We lost manufacturing some years ago and now we are bringing it back,” said Meyer Burger CEO Gunter Erfurt at the reopening of the Freiberg plant in the eastern German regional state of Saxony in May. “The timing could not be better.” A second plant will revive manufacturing in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Saxony-Anhalt. Improvements in performance and production costs of Meyer Burger’s technology have made European production more competitive.

Experts predict the future belongs to solar because it’s one of the cheapest and most plentiful sources of power and one of the most climate-friendly. The resurgence of solar power in Germany is evidenced by the figures for annually installed PV capacity, which reached nearly 5 gigawatts (GW) last year – the highest level since 2012. Those numbers are set to increase considerably in the coming years due to Germany’s transition to clean energy (Energiewende).

Regional initiatives

Demand is also rising at the regional level. Berlin, for instance, just passed a law making solar PV systems mandatory in all new buildings and renovations as of 2023. Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BloombergNEF, says that while more foreign investment on the manufacturing side is likely, there is already “plenty of German money” in the sector as investments in projects complying with environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards have become particularly attractive.

Great potential in Germany’s solar photovoltaics sector

142%

Increase in new solar PV rooftop installations of between 10 and 30 kW in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020

100GW

Increase in PV energy capacity in Germany by 2030 (up from 53.6 GW in 2020) – the national government target

6GW

PV capacity for 2022 energy auctions – a threefold increase since 2020

Source: pv magazine

Investment opportunities

International companies have been interested in German solartech for some time. South Korea’s Hanwha Group acquired Bitterfeld-Wolfen-based Q CELLS in 2012, turning it into one of the world’s leading PV companies. And with the new solar boom, the time has never been better for foreign firms to establish a presence in Germany and in related fields such as energy storage.

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