The PV world ten years ago – summer series part I

pv magazine editor Pilar Sánchez Molina recollects everyday news from the PV sector of ten years ago as part of a new series. The insights offered will not only bring back memories for the pioneers of that exciting, challenging period but may also offer an idea of where we could be in 2030.

Could solar manufacturing move from Germany to Asia?

Production costs were a key challenge for German PV companies ten years ago: the need for lower costs; shrinking margins; and market share were highlighted as the top three challenges German solar manufacturers faced in 2010.

Of 63 senior executives who attended a PV market executive briefing on May 11, 2010, in the German city of Frankfurt am Main, 22% considered the biggest problem facing their company was a need to reduce production costs.

That was happening at a time when German PV companies were also facing uncertainty about proposals to cut the solar feed-in tariff (FIT) by 16%. The question of if, how and when solar production might shift to Asia was asked. When it came to cell production, 24% of the executives said they fully agreed production would shift, with only 5% dissenting. The outlook did not appear as bleak for the manufacturers of modules; silicon; ingots and wafers; and photovoltaic manufacturing equipment, with only 17%, 16%, 18% and 8% of the participants, respectively, believing production would go east.

Spain

The Spanish solar industry, at the time the world’s largest, ended 2009 having produced 300 MW of solar modules and there were factories in place capable of manufacturing 800 MW of modules the following year.

Isofoton SA, however, made headlines in 2009 due to staff cuts and the need for a regional administration to intervene to prevent its bankruptcy. Despite having produced 70 MW of modules in 2019, its future was uncertain. On August 28, 2010, newspaper El País reported the company had won an important German order and would produce 3 MW of panels in September.

For its part, Solaria Energía y Medio Ambiente – Spain’s second largest manufacturer – slowed production, and eventually halted for a few months in 2019, during which time more than 400 employees stopped working.

United States

The U.S. solar industry announced it was ready to create 200,000 jobs if the 1603 Treasury Grant Program for solar would be extended to 2012 and solar energy manufacturing included in the industry’s tax credit, according to trade body the Solar Energy Industries Association. It added, 10 GW of solar generation capacity could be installed in the States by 2016.

The clean energy subsidy program which had been created in the nation’s recent stimulus bill had enabled enough renewables generation capacity to power four cities the size of Seattle and create more than 140,000 jobs.

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