Evergreen Solar and Q-Cells Partner on PV Facility

Not only are Germany’s tremendous solar incentives sucking up worldwide solar photovoltaic module demand to the country, but they’re drawing new jobs and manufacturing as well.

The Massachusetts-based solar PV manufacturer Evergreen Solar announced a partnership with Germany’s Q-Cells AG, reportedly the world’s largest independent manufacturer of crystalline silicon solar cells. The two companies agreed on a joint venture to build a 30 MW solar wafer, cell and module manufacturing facility in Thalheim, Germany, approximately 100 miles from Berlin. Construction of the facility is expected to begin in early 2005 and take approximately 12 months to complete. The total capital cost for all property, plant and equipment for the 30 MW factory is expected to be approximately USD $75 million. Evergreen Solar will own 75.1 percent of the joint venture; Q-Cells will own 24.9 percent. “This joint venture represents an ideal execution of the commercialization strategy we have laid out during the past year,” said Richard M. Feldt, President and Chief Executive Officer of Evergreen Solar. “We are gaining a superb partner; because Q-Cells is focused exclusively on cell production, we believe that we can marry our technologies in ways that will enable the joint venture to optimally meet the needs of the solar power market. Last year Germany edged ahead of other leading countries in terms of the volume of new solar power systems installed. The German solar industry association reported that solar panel manufacturers doubled their production capacity and created 5,000 jobs in 2004. New solar power systems with a total output potential of around 300 MW were installed nationwide last year. This compares with a volume of new installations in Japan amounting to 280 MW and in the United States to 90 MW. This trend is supported by the favorable conditions the German government created for solar energy production under the Renewable Energies Act. In 1998, when the current government took office, the volume of solar energy potential being installed annually amounted to only 14 MW, compared to more than twenty times this amount in 2004. Sales in 2004 rose by 60 percent to more than two billion euros, compared with 840 million in 2002 and around 1.3 billion in 2003. The renewable energies sector in Germany has become an important factor for economic growth and job creation. German solar industry association secretary-general Carsten Körnig noted that more than 5,000 jobs were created in the sector last year and that around 30,000 people are currently employed in the industry. Renewable energy has received comparatively meager support from the U.S. federal government, even though the industry offers very tangible jobs and economic benefits such as are being demonstrated in Germany. The new, proposed Evergreen Solar / Q-Cells facility is expected to create 350-400 jobs. Since the arrangement between the two companies can offer a boost of new jobs to Germany — a country racked with a high unemployment rate — the joint venture intends to seek support from the German government in funding the project. The proposed facility is expected to be constructed on property near Q-Cells’ existing solar cell factories, and should therefore capture strong synergies with Q-Cells’ operations. “The combination of our two technologies will provide our joint venture with the resources to effectively address the needs of the emerging solar marketplace and a manufacturing plant that we believe will be a new model for the industry,” Feldt said. Editor’s Note: See how the news is affecting Evergreen’s stock price at the link below.
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