Photovoltaic energy has become one of the most cost-effective ways to generate electricity in Europe and worldwide. The market is booming and demand for production facilities is rising sharply as a result. According to industry association SolarPower Europe, at 16.7 gigawatts (GW), the capacity of new solar power systems installed in Europe increased by 100 percent in 2019. This year, 21 GW of new PV capacity is expected to be added in Europe and 142 GW globally. Taking into account the additional electricity needed to decarbonize the heating and transportation sectors, it is estimated that more than 100 GW of new PV capacity will be installed annually in Europe by some point between 2025 and 2030.
With its material, component and plant manufacturers as well as its strong research landscape, the German photovoltaics industry has made the greatest contribution to these developments. Mechanical engineers from Germany and other European countries supply equipment to manufacturers of high-efficiency solar cells and modules around the globe. Nonetheless, virtually all of these cells and modules are now produced in Asia.
The German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) believes that this situation has caused a new wave of dependency to emerge in Germany and Europe, despite the continent having the necessary technical skills. What’s more, the need to transport the goods generates additional carbon emissions. “Producing solar cells and modules in Europe, however, could reduce carbon emissions to a minimum and make our energy system more sustainable thanks to the circular economy,” says Jutta Trube, Managing Director of VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment. A study conducted by Fraunhofer ISE on behalf of VDMA has shown that producing solar modules in Europe is competitive and feasible across the entire supply chain without state subsidies, provided that the production facilities are of the right size. However, this would only be possible with an annual production capacity of at least 5 GW.
PV production technologies are also taking center stage at Intersolar Europe 2020, where an entire hall – hall C1 – will be dedicated to presenting the latest innovations in this area.
PV production technologies - hall C1