Jerry Stokes, president Suntech Power Europe, looks at the potential of European solar expertise
Yes, there is a market consolidation going on and we are all aware of the fact that the gold rush period of the solar industry is over just as it was after the hype of other high-tech industries such as the mobile phoneorinternet markets. Unfortunately however, the focus of the current discussions is nearly always placed on the module producing part of the business. This shouldn’t be the case as there are at least four jobs in the European PV industry not related to making modules forevery one that is.
European companies such as leading European automation system and inverter suppliers as well as project developers and distributors have already started to branch out into neighbouring European countries and have become global players as world markets continue to grow. Their expertise and strength is sometimes overlooked by companies that would like to pretend that the module is everything. It is not. The solar industry covers all parts of the value chain from R&D, equipment making, material and component manufacturing, cells, modules, inverters, structures, distribution, financing, installation and others.
Global opportunities forthe solar industry are still growing with great potentials in theUSA,ChinaandJapanbut also inEuropewhere the maturing market shows a development towards smart solutions, high efficiency forsmall systems and limited space, residential systems and self consumption. As module producer we are continuously investing into R&D to improve the efficiency of our modules. In addition there are also a number of innovations that might not look spectacular at first glance but are a big step forward forresellers, installers and the overall cost reduction forsolar energy. At Intersolar Europe we introduced a new compact frame design forour popular 60-cell W-Series module forexample. In the new design, the module frame has been narrowed from 50mm to 35mm and total module weight has been reduced significantly from 19.1kg to 18.2kg. These changes make the module easier to handle, and allow formore efficient packaging that can reduce total storage and shipment costs by up to 25 per cent. In addition, the lower aluminium content reduces the product’s carbon footprint and energy-payback period to less than two years under average conditions.
Instead of jeopardizing the industry with protectionist measures capable of pushing the increased adoption of solar and distributed generation back by years and put millions of jobs downstream at risk the solar industry should work together on achieving lower prices to make solar more affordable, reduce the dependency on imported fuels and offer hope to those forwhom reliable access to affordable solar energy is currently a dream, wherever they are in the world.