One of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar PV wafers, modules and panels will join forces with a major PV distributor in a joint venture and are expected to increase the production of PV components in both Germany and the US.MAINZ, Germany 2002-03-25 [SolarAccess.com] The RWE Group and SCHOTT Glas have signed a letter of intent to combine all their solar activities in the field of PV to the joint venture company, to be known as RWE SCHOTT Solar. The deal, negotiated over the past several months, is expected to become official in about six months and will incorporate RWE Solar GmbH, its subsidiary ASE Americas Inc., Billerica, Massachusetts and SCHOTT Applied Power Corporation, Rocklin, California. In a joint statement, the CEO of RWE Solutions, Heinz-Werner Binzel, and SCHOTT Executive Vice President Dr. Udo Ungeheuer said the deal is intended “to expand the leading position of RWE SCHOTT Solar in a dynamic market. The technological top position of the RWE Solutions subsidiary is to be strengthened by the materials research and production know-how and the global presence of SCHOTT.” Tom Starrs, President of Schott Applied Power Corporation (SAPC) told SolarAccess.com that the joint venture brings the manufacturing expertise and commitment to PV of SAPC together with RWE’s presence in the PV market. He said Schott’s purchase of Applied Power was the first step in that direction. “This is the next step,” Starrs said. RWE’s current manufacturing capacity – about 60 MW in Germany and 20 MW of wafers at ASE Americas in Billerica – is sold out for 2002. The two companies will jointly develop additional manufacturing capacity and the role of SAPC will be the “outlet” of the new capacity, according to Starrs. In the short term, ASE Americas and SAPC are not expected to be largely effected by the joint venture with the exceptions being some administrative and human relations functions changes mandated by the merger of two companies. In the long run, there will likely be some integration of the two companies, according to Starrs. “I don’t anticipate that there will be any significant changes to the management of ASE or SAPC as an immediate result of this deal or in the immediate future,” Starrs said. SAPC’s role as a distributor of modules combined with the PV manufacturing prowess of RWE will put the joint company in a strategic position to better compete with other distributors who also manufacturer the product, according to Starrs. “We have struggled for some time and been at a competitive disadvantage because we didn’t have a relationship with companies like our competitors,” Starrs said. “This should put us on a more equal footing.” Starrs said SAPC will look to RWE to manufacture modules that will meet the market demands of its customers including module sizes other then the 300 W panels exclusively manufactured at the ASE Americas plant. “The idea of the joint venture is to fill the niche markets,” Starrs said. “We (SAPC) sell a lot of different modules right now.” Starrs said that he expects two to four different module sizes to be manufactured by the new company, but did not indicate if they would be manufactured at ASE Americas or another facility, although he said he expected the added capacity to be manufactured in the US as well as Germany. RWE Solar, employs 550 people and had sales for the fiscal year ending June 30 of 96 million euros (US$82.5 million dollars) and is the world’s fifth-largest producer of solar panels. SAPC employs 75 people and had sales of 20 million euros (US$17 million)last year.