Germany’s hollowed-out solar industry is hoping that the coronavirus crisis and new green initiatives will give it a much-needed boost, write Franziska Höhnl and Christiane Raatz in Die Welt. The sector, which was seen as a world leader ten years ago, was brought to its knees in recent years by competition from Asia. But solar firms are now hopeful that structural economic changes in the wake of the pandemic, plus the EU’s Green Deal and environmental incentives, will give it renewed momentum.
The Swiss machine-maker Meyer Burger Technology is leading the charge after announcing it will begin producing solar cells and modules in the eastern German states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, formerly the heart of the industry and home to “Solar Valley”. Most production previously moved to Asia, especially China. CEO Gunter Erfurt sees an “enormous attraction” in solar energy with the expected reorientation of the economy and plans for e-car purchase premiums. Rivals are also predicting a second chance for German solar power, according to Höhnl and Raatz. Q-Cell, which is based in Saxony-Anhalt, has injected 125 million euros in developing next-generation cells, while Saxon firm Solarwatt has seen a 40 percent rise in demand for home and medium-sized commercial property installations in the past year.
Solar power forms a key plank of Germany’s energy transition process, and the failure of its homegrown industry has been seen as a big blow to the country’s technology leadership ambitions. By 2030, renewable sources will supply 65 percent of electricity, with installed photovoltaic capacity providing 66 gigawatts. Total photovoltaic capacity currently stands at just under 51 gigawatts. To hit the target, the annually installed PV capacity must be tripled from 2022 onwards, according to the German Solar Industry Association (BSW).