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Spectacular comeback The new boom in the solar industry After years of decline and bankruptcies, the solar industry in Germany is experiencing a comeback. Even solar cells are being produced again in this country. Help is also coming from the coalition. By L. Gries.


Spectacular comeback The new boom in the solar industry

As of: 06/24/2021 8:03 a.m.

After years of decline and bankruptcies, the solar industry in Germany is experiencing a comeback. Even solar cells are being produced again in this country. Help is also coming from the coalition.

From Lothar Gries, tagesschau.de

While the expansion of wind turbines is stalling, photovoltaic systems are enjoying ever greater popularity. In a tender in March, the Federal Network Agency was literally overrun with applications. There were more than twice as many interested parties as expected. Much to the delight of the Union and the SPD, who are agreed on an immediate program for energy and climate protection shortly before the summer break . After the federal cabinet yesterday given the green light has, the package should to be passed by the Bundestag today . According to this, the tender volumes for photovoltaic systems will be increased by 4.1 gigawatts to six gigawatts from next year. In the future, the municipalities will also be able to participate financially in photovoltaic areas. Until now, this was only possible with wind turbines. The Union and the SPD could not agree on a solar obligation for new buildings. Consumer advocates and the Haus und Grund association had heavily criticized the plans.


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Mega boom in the solar industry

Solar systems were already very popular last year. According to the Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft (BSW), a quarter more solar systems were installed on German roofs than in the previous year, exactly 184,000, with an output of around 4.9 gigawatts. No other form of energy grew faster in power generation. However, pull-forward effects probably also contributed to this. In the spring there was still uncertainty about the continued existence of state subsidies, plus the temporarily reduced value added tax.

Almost every tenth kilowatt hour consumed this year comes from solar energy in this country. The Federal Association of Energy and Water Management (BDEW) is already demanding that new solar systems with an output of at least ten gigawatts (GW) be installed every year by 2030. “We need a solar boom,” said BDEW chairwoman Kerstin Andreae recently to “Handelsblatt”.


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Again solar cells from Bitterfeld

The domestic production of solar modules is celebrating an unexpected comeback these days. Solar cells are being produced again in Germany, in what was once the “Solar Valley” near Bitterfeld in Saxony-Anhalt. The Swiss company Meyer Burger recently opened a new plant here, which will be ramped up these days.

“At the historic Solar Valley solar location, we are setting a milestone on Europe’s path to more strategic independence in the key technology of photovoltaics,” said CEO Gunter Erfurt at the opening on May 18th. In the highly automated operation, up to 200,000 solar cells are expected to roll off the production line every day. In a first step, an annual capacity of 400 megawatts is planned. It should be five gigawatts by 2026.


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Next door, the solar company Q-Cells, which belongs to the South Korean Hanwha Group, is expanding its location in Bitterfeld and intends to invest a good 140 million euros in the research and development of new, low-resource solar modules by 2023. Q-Cells was once one of the largest photovoltaic manufacturers in Europe, but was ousted by Chinese competition and had to file for bankruptcy in 2012 before the Koreans bought it.

The lucrative business with solar parks

In fact, the manufacture of solar panels plays a rather subordinate role in the rebirth of the industry. The most important players in the new boom are now operators and developers of solar parks, above all the Hamburg company Encavis, which has now been included in the MDAX share index. The electricity provider, formerly known as “Capital Stage AG”, acquires and operates solar power plants and (onshore) wind parks in Germany and other European countries – with success, as the latest outlook shows. The result this year is expected to increase more than twice as fast as in 2020. Sales are expected to grow to over 320 million euros, thanks to two newly connected solar parks in Spain with a maximum production capacity of 200 and 300 megawatts each. The regular income that such a business model generates has not escaped other entrepreneurs.

Is a new IPO imminent with BEE?

Five years ago, a dozen Encavis managers decided to start their own company. With financial help from the entrepreneurial family Wacker (Wacker Chemie) and the former publishing family Jahr, the wind and solar park operator Blue Elephant Energy (BEE) was created. The company controls systems with a combined output of 1.1 gigawatts. Projects of a similar size are being planned. BEE achieved an operating result (Ebitda) of more than 60 million euros last year with a turnover of over 80 million euros. Because of the unusually high margin and the industry’s growth prospects, there is even speculation that the Hamburg-based company will go public. The company could earn 150 million euros, insiders reported to the Reuters news agency. After that, the issue could be implemented this summer, if possible in July. The company does not comment on the speculation. But company boss Felix Goedhart is quoted by the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung” as saying: “Our operating profit margin of 74 percent with low risk should be interesting for investors.”


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Solar power from Mecklenburg for VW

Climate protection and the goal of the EU Commission to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 are generating more and more alliances between a wide variety of companies. The Hamburg asset manager Luxcara has acquired a solar park in Mecklenburg and commissioned the energy giant RWE to market it. RWE will supply the car manufacturer Volkswagen with electricity from next year. The system has a total capacity of 170 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which makes it one of the largest solar projects in Germany