The number of solar factories closing in Europe has increased tremendously in the 2nd half of 2012 despite a record surge in Germany which would have raised 2011 solar growth to 25%. However the relentless price pressure from Chinese solar panel companies has decimated the solar companies in the West. While there have been a number of famous cases of bankruptcy like Solyndra and Solon, there have been bigger solar factory closedowns. REC has closed down more than 1 GW of wafer capacity while a pure play Spanish solar wafer factory also closed down recently . British solar wafer maker PV Crystalox is also near the verge of failure. Solar Wafer prices have fallen by almost 60% in the last 1 year with the prices much below the cost of production in Europe. It seems unlikely that any solar wafer maker will remain alive in Europe by 2013.
Solar Thin Film Technology has been growing rapidly despite falling costs of the mainstream Photovoltaic Crystalline Silicon Technology.While the current solar supply glut has resulted in some of the thin film solar film companies going out of business,big thin film suppliers continue with their growth plan.Solar Thin Film Technology is supposed to be the 2nd Generation successor to the mainstream Crystalline Silicon (c-Si) Technology which accounts for around 85% of world production.While a number of Weaker Hands in Thin Film have downed shutters,Thin Film Producers continue to grow and expand.The massive growth potential of Solar Energy makes it possible for both of these PV technologies to flourish.Thin Film Technology unlike c-Si has a number of variants.Amorphous Silicon (a-Si),Copper Indium Gallium Sulphide (CIGs) and Cadmium Tellurium (Cd-Te) are the 3 main types of Thin Film Technology.There are a number of manufacturers of all of these 3 types of Technology.CIGs Technology is said to have the most potential in improving efficiency and competing with c-Si,however Cd-Te is currently the top dog as the world’s biggest solar producer First Solar currently uses this technology.a-Si Technology is not that hot with low efficiencies however Oerlikon and Sharp are pushing ahead with developing this technology.
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’s Solar Energy Market is the biggest in the world by a fair margin.Germany installed almost 6 gigawatts of solar panels in 2010 taking the total installed capacity to almost 16 GW which is 40% of the world’s total installed solar capacity.Note Germany’s Photovoltaic Solar Electricity now forms almost 10-15% of the total electricity production in the country at peak time.Note Germany’s solar industry got a renewed boost when 7 old nuclear plants were shutdown following Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Disaster recently.Previously Germany had decided to extend the operating life of its Nuclear Plants despite stiff opposition.Germany Solar Subsidy which is framed under the Renewable Energy EEG law has made Germany one of the world’s leaders in Wind,Solar and Biomass Energy.Germany’s Manufacturing Industry has benefited from the strong domestic market with many of the world’s top solar panel companies located there.Solar equipment,inverters and cell companies are also present in large numbers.Recently Germany amended its Feed in Tariff Law to slowdown the exponential growth in solar panel installations.This is over and above the regular reduction in solar subsidies done each year.
Solar Thermal Technology has been facing tough competition from its sister Solar PV Technology in recent times.Despite strong government subsidies and support,numerous drawbacks have contributed to this Technology losing out to Solar PV in a number of projects in the US notably by Tessera.However a number of startups and big conglomerates continue to make huge investments in this technology.Spain and US are leaders in implementation of this Solar Technology type,however others like India and China are to building CSP plants as their energy needs continue to grow.Note like Solar PV,there are a number of different technology types for CSP like Power Tower,Parabolic Troughs,linear fresnel technology and Stirling Engines.Here is a list of the most important Solar Thermal Companies (Technology Providers cum Project Developers)
European companies have largely been absent in the Indian solar energy scene except for Siemens,Areva which are moving aggressively in the whole green energy sector.Note US and Chinese companies have already established solid beacheads in the country.India’s solar energy sector is poised for exponential growth in the coming decade further boosted by JNNSM.European home markets are maturing for European companies and India is the rising star,so it is essential that the sales teams of the Europeans get in early.Schott Solar is one of the biggest manufacturer of solar panels in Germany.Though not big on the world stage,Schott Solar is present in large parts of the Solar PV and Solar Thermal Supply Chain.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.Note Premier Solar is a small company and seems they are building the 20 MW for a state government and not under the JNNSM scheme.Note,Schott is not a big name in solar either and its thin film modules are certainly not famous either so makes a good combination.Solar Energy in India finally sees entry of European companies Abengoa and Schott