Stately Welcome for New German Solar Facility

There may be a solar photovoltaic and solar thermal system on top of the White House, but otherwise, renewable energy – particularly solar energy – is not a big priority for America’s top executive. In Germany, however, where expansive multi-MW solar projects are going up at an astonishing rate, the country’s top leader, Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder, knows how big a role solar is playing in the country.

Schroeder recently met with Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar and Q-Cells AG in Thalheim, Germany, the city where a new USD $75 million solar panel manufacturing plant will be constructed. The new solar cell and module manufacturing facility is the product of a partnership between the two firms. “Our ability to innovate and significantly reduce solar power manufacturing costs is the foundation upon which this strategic partnership was established,” said Evergreen Solar President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Feldt. “We believe the combination of our String Ribbon technology with Q-Cells’ high efficiency cell processing and proven ability to scale manufacturing plants will enable us to become a world leader in the solar power industry.” These days, every solar PV manufacturer has an eye – if not a specific focus – on the German solar market. Based in Germany, Q-Cells is the world’s largest independent manufacturer of crystalline silicon solar cells, while Evergreen Solar is solar PV manufacturer relying on a unique “string-ribbon” process. Both companies are working collaboratively to provide PV for the German market which is being driven by strong government policies. “This is a great example of how environmental sensitivity and economic efficiency go together,” Schroeder said. “Solar power has the potential to secure the future energy supply in Germany and worldwide.” The Chancellor also met with CSG Solar AG, a Thalheim-based developer of solar panels. The German government plans to provide the new EverQ manufacturing facility with grants totaling approximately USD $34 million at current exchange rates. Construction is set to begin in August and the plant is expected to create between 350 and 400 new jobs in the area. “Public funding of solar energy makes sense not only economically but also in terms of energy policy,” Schroeder stated. In total, the solar industry employs approximately 30,000 in Germany and created 5,000 new jobs for the country in 2004 alone. The solar photovoltaic market was over $7 billion in 2004 and is growing at more than 40 percent per year. Thanks to generous production based incentives, Germany is the world’s largest solar power market today, accounting for 40 percent of worldwide spending in 2004. Markets in Japan and the United States rank second and third, respectively. “Germany has created a model for economic development by supporting the solar power industry that is now being emulated by nations throughout Europe and the world,” Feldt said. “The continued strength of the German market and the increase in solar power adoption globally is helping to fuel Evergreen’s continued expansion.
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