East meets west with Scheuten Solar15. June 2012 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets | By: Jonathan Gifford
Comeback kid Scheuten Solar has celebrated its revival, from the brink, at the Intersolar Europe trade show. With Chinese investor Aikosolar taking over the intellectual property, commercial team and also German manufacturing facilities, the company believes it demonstrates a new way forward for troubled European producers. Scheuten Solar CCO Perry Verberne spoke with pv magazine.
What was the process of Aikosolar taking over Scheuten Solar?
We went through the insolvency completely and it was at the end of that period, around the end of March/early April, that this Chinese party decided to buy parts of Scheuten Solar. What they actually acquired was basically the name and the intellectual property rights around the name. They restarted a new company under the new Scheuten Solar brand.
What will that mean in terms of operations?
The next step was announced earlier this week, that the same company also acquired the production facility in Gelsenkirchen [which was first opened in 2003]. It was a 200-megawatt (MW) production facility, but for now we will start up that facility with a very decreased scale at the beginning. We plan to produce around 30 to 50 MW, with a focus on our special glass-glass modules.
What is Aikosolar’s background?
Aikosolar is a Chinese cell manufacturer [with a production capacity of 600 MW]. It is two-thirds privately owned and about one-third is government owned, along with the Chinese bank.
What attracted them to Scheuten Solar?
They were looking at moving upstream from cell production, into module manufacturing. They also wanted to enter into the European market, they were looking into brands that would help them with that. They thought that the Scheuten Solar brand, with the German quality behind it and the glass-glass production and the BIPV production, would suit their vision for an integrated company.
Why is that with Aikosolar that Scheuten Solar will be able to survive in this difficult period?
One of the problems with Scheuten Solar in the past was on the cell level; there were very difficult cell contracts that didn’t allow the company to bring the cost level down sufficiently. One of the exceptions was the special glass-glass modules and some of the highline products Scheuten Solar was selling. So with Aikosolar, we not only have a sound financial background, we also have a cost-effective way of getting high-quality cells. So with Aikosolar we can also develop higher power classes and will be able to expand the portfolio.
Will manufacturing be maintained in Europe?
It is definitely very much the intention to keep production in Germany, although the scale now will be smaller. The plan is to run at full capacity as soon as possible – depending on demand in the market. Scheuten Solar won’t just be looking at the European market anymore but will be looking into the newer developing solar markets around the world, and with Aikosolar we will have the opportunity to do so. For the Asian market it will make more sense to produce locally, so it is in the pipeline to develop manufacturing facilities in China.
What’s the roadmap back up to 200 MW for the German fab?
This year we will ramp up to 50 MW. However, most of the ramp up will depend on demand from the market. The same modules and the same products will also be produced in China and the new factory will be online by the end of this year. By the end of next year we will see if there is sufficient demand to expand production both in Germany and in Asia.
Do you think this sends a signal to some of the European manufacturers facing an uncertain future?
There is a lot of sentiment around the market about Chinese suppliers in Europe. But now being a part of Aikosolar, we really think that we can take the best of both worlds. We can take all the German engineering capacity and high quality modules and very experienced people in the marketplace here in Europe. Back that up with cost-effective production in China and the financial support we get from Aikosolar, I think the situation will provide us and maybe later on the rest of the market with a new, bright outlook.
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