Regions with a poor infrastructure are particularly interesting markets for photovoltaics. Solar power offers the possibility of supplying electricity for lighting, cooling and communications – without burdening the environment.
Being Smart with Solar Technology
The main objective of the joint venture between SCHOTT and RWE is to become a top player among the manufacturers of photovoltaic solar cells. RWE SCHOTT Solar GmbH in Alzenau has already taken the first giant step in this direction with the opening of its new “SmartSolarFab” plant.
In recent years electricity production by photovoltaic plants, which convert sunlight directly into energy, has developed into an industry with growth rates of more than 30 percent. Experts predict annual growth rates of over 20 percent in the future. This will result in a dramatic increase in sales of more than four billion euros in 2010 to 20 billion in 2020, and ultimately 100 billion in 2030. In light of this situation, the leading service provider for utilities RWE Solutions AG in Frankfurt am Main and the technology company SCHOTT in Mainz decided to combine all their terrestrial photovoltaic activities. RWE Solar GmbH in Alzenau, its U.S. subsidiary ASE Americas, Inc. in Billerica near Boston, Massachusetts, and SCHOTT Applied Power Corporation in Rocklin, California were thus integrated into a single company, which will be jointly managed by RWE Solutions and SCHOTT. The European Commission on Competition Policy has since approved the merger without any restrictions.
“I am pleased that we can further boost our existing leading position in solar technology through SCHOTT’s know-how in materials research and production and its global presence,” says Heinz-Werner Binzel, the CEO of RWE Solutions AG. “We see this joint venture as a further step in positioning SCHOTT as an integrated technology supplier,“ adds Dr. Udo Ungeheuer, a member of SCHOTT’s Board of Management. RWE SCHOTT Solar GmbH has already set its first milestone by beginning operations of the so-called “SmartSolarFab” at the end of August 2002 – perfectly according to plan. The largest and most advanced solar cell production plant in Europe went on stream after only nine months of construction. The new building – measuring 350 by 100 meters with a production area of 20,000 square meters – offers space for the entire value-added chain of solar energy, which is unique in the world: the production of silicon wafers, cell fabrication and the ultimate integration of the cells into complete modules. “That makes us the world leader, and therefore, I would say we have every right to use the word ‘smart’ in this connection.” remarks Manfred Remmel, a member of the Executive Board of RWE AG in Essen.
A giant step forward
The work in Alzenau began with the middle manufacturing step, cell production. By the spring of 2003 the first wafer and module production will commence operations. Completion of the expansion project is expected a year later. The total investment for the entire plant will amount to 150 million euros. “Through our new plant with a solar cell capacity of 60 megawatts per year, we have not only strengthened our leading position in Germany and Europe, but have also catapulted ourselves to a ranking among the top five worldwide,” says Dr. Winfried Hoffmann, Chairman of the Managing Board of RWE SCHOTT Solar. The capacity in Alzenau until now has been 20 megawatts. This alone shows what a giant step forward “SmartSolarFab” represents.
A patented process
In its 20,000-square meter “SmartSolarFab,” RWE SCHOTT Solar will soon be able to realize the entire value-added chain of solar energy – from wafers to finished modules.
A photovoltaic unit on the roof of a single-family house: the most solar energy is produced when the modules face south and are installed at an inclination angle of 30°.
With this intelligent factory, which has created 400 new jobs, RWE SCHOTT Solar has set itself high objectives: compared with its own former production in Alzenau, the new processes aim to achieve an increase in productivity by 50 percent. With the same investment sum and number of staff, the output will increase from 10 to 15 metawatts per year. “These factors will help us survive on the world market,” stresses Michael Harre. The existing know-how in the field of thin-layer technologies is further proof of the promising future for the joint venture.