We all know the story: the market was growing, the German manufacturing industry – followed by other countries – took the “easy” route of outsourcing its assembly lines to China. At the same time, several Chinese companies have taken the lead and, stimulated by domestic demand, have taken our industry to another level.
But the game is not over and European demand for solar panels continues to grow. Therefore, when the price of the module drops and efficiency increases, at some point, transportation becomes a fixed part of the price. With highly automated manufacturing processes, the cost of labor is no longer enough to justify exclusively Asian manufacturing.
The time has probably come to restart the European solar industry.
At present, according to a series of press leaks, plans are underway on both banks of the Rhine for a gigawatt-scale factory. Even though Germany is still Europe’s largest domestic market, the country is struggling to remove a 52 GW cap on solar power that should mark the end of public subsidies.
In France, we have been slower to adopt solar, but that means that the provisions of the government’s energy plan – the Multi-Year Energy Programming (PPE) – offer enormous potential. I have received several comments on social media calling for two gigawatt-scale solar factories in Europe, instead of one. I would love two plants – and more! But let’s take a few steps. Let’s create one before launching several outlets in direct competition.
I consider, today, that the best option for European industry is a French factory. For political reasons, such a decision would undoubtedly guarantee government support for our solar industry, from upstream manufacturing to downstream projects. And if France moves away from its current position as a “sleeping partner” to become an active player in the solar world, Germany would have a solid ally to discuss the reconstruction of a European solar industry.
Xavier Daval is an international PV and energy storage expert and CEO of the French solar technology consultancy Kilowattsol SAS, which he founded in 2007. He is an engineer and former director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa d ” a listed electronics manufacturer. Daval is also vice president of the French Association of Renewable Energies, the Syndicate of Renewable Energies, chairman of its SER-Soler solar commission and director of the United States-based international organization, the Global Solar Council.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of pv magazine.