Germany till a couple of years was the home of the biggest solar panel manufacturers in the world.This was driven mainly by the German Renewable Energy Law (EEG) which is the most successful renewable energy subsidy in the world.The German Solar Market has become the biggest in the world for the last 2-3 years and an estimated 25 GW of solar panels would have been installed in Germany.Capitalizing on a large domestic market a number of solar companies like Q-Cells,Solarworld,Solon and others became the biggest in the world.However the rise of the Chinese solar panel manufactures has made these companies shrink with some of them like Q-Cells facing questions of survival.The prices of the Chinese solar panels has become lower than the costs of the German made solar modules putting the economic viability of the German solar panels in question.Though the quality of the German made solar panels is higher and some of the best solar panels in the world are produced by the Germans,the price differential has meant that Chinese have captured almost 70% of the global solar panel market leaving little for the German solar panel companies.The Italian Feed in Tariff Law Contio Energia 3 has given somewhat of a boost to the German solar panel makers as it gives higher subsidies for solar projects,farms using European based modules.However German solar panel producers are in a secular decline with most of them shifting their factories to Asia.Q-Cells and Bosch have set up big solar manufacturing facilities in Malaysia while Solarworld is doing so in the US.Another Big European Solar Producer REC is closing its factories in Norway while expanding it in Singapore.
German Solar Panel Brands
- Solarworld - Solarworld is the Biggest German producer of solar panels,the company is one of the few to still have operations in Europe and USA.The company has been battered by low cost competition .However Solarworld is strongly expanding in USA as growth slows down in Germany.Solarworld is also entering the polysilicon sector through a JV with Qatar.Only Western company not to have a major factory in Asia.Solarworld recently said that the Chinese are making “war” on the Europeans through massive subsidies being given to their domestic companies like Suntech and GCL-Poly
- Q-Cells - The largest solar producer of cells in 2008 faced a horrendous 2009 running losses of as high as Euro 1 billion.After restructuring it has moved its factories to Malaysia and has diversified into solar modules and systems.The German company has seen its stock price drop more than 95% from the peak levels.It is using Flextronics as an outsourced module producerfor its cells.The company has expanded into making Photovoltaic modules and systems.The company also makes thin film modules through its Solibro subsidiary.Q-Cells has massive inventories and has not put itself for sale.But given its high cost factories,big debt and little value since it does not sell solar panels on a large scale,it has not found a buyer yet.
- Bosch – This German Auto Giant has expanded into Solar Energy by buying up small German companies like Ersol and Aleo Solar.Bosch is now vertically integrated with operations in solar wafers,cells and panels.Bosch Solar Panels are expensive and they don’t have much of a distribution either.
- Schott – The German Glass Maker is a big component supplier to the CSP industry but does not provide a turnkey solution.Schott is also involved in the Solar PV Technology area producing both crystalline silicon panels as well as thin film panels.It recently established a JV with Chinese company Hareon and plans to build 700 MW of solar panel capacity in emerging markets around the world.It has won a contract to supply 20 MW of thin film modules to Indian Solar Company Premier Solar with 10 MW of supply in 2010 and 10 MW in 2011
- Solar Fabrik - Small solar panel,wafer and cell producer.
- Solon – Solon one of the biggest solar panel producers and installers in Germany has become a shadow of its former self and had to be rescued by the government as it ran into financial difficulties.It makes solar panels but has now shut its operations in the USA instead outsourcing the panel making to others.
- Sunways - Its a small German company that makes solar cells and solar panels.The company also is involved in doing some solar projects.However when the existence of its bigger brothers hangs in balance the future does not look bright for Sunway
- Conergy – Conergy was one of the largest solar installers and developers in the world but the 2008 crisis threw the company into problems.It built a 250 MW solar panel factory in Germany however that is closed now because of the high cost structure.The company has subsidiaries in various parts of the world but faces problems of survival.LG was going to buy the company but has canceled it
- Centrosolar – It is based in Munich, Germany, produces photovoltaic (PV) systems for private houses and industrial properties.In 2008, Centrosolar opened a 47,000 square-meter, 150 MW solar module factory in Wismar, Germany
German Solar Panels Comparision with Chinese Solar Panels
1) Cost and Price – The Chinese Solar Panels are much less pricier than German Solar Panels.You can buy a good Chinese solar these days at around $1.8-2.00 watt range from retail while German made solar panels cost around $2.5-3 /watt.Factory prices of both are much lower than this and you can get good rates in wholesale solar panels.The cost of the Chinese solar panels is also much lower
2) Quality – The quality of German solar panels is better than Chinese solar panels though some brands like Yingli,Trina have quality which would match that of the German solar panels
3) Scale – The scale of the Germans has become considerably smaller that that of the biggest Chinese solar panel producers
4) Going Concern – There is some concern about the going concern basis of some German solar companies.Note your warranty on a solar panel for 25 years would become void if the seller of the solar panel becomes bankrupt.Also some Tier 2 Chinese solar panel producer face survival questions as well.
You can read about the Chinese solar panel brands here.
German Solar Panels in Australia
Solarworld and REC are the main European brand of solar panels which are available in Australia.Note the smaller manufacturers don’t have the distribution in Australia unlike the big panel producers.However these companies may not be the best solar panel in Australia that you can buy.