Gehrlicher Solar plans international growth; announces large-scale deployment of assembly robot

Gehrlicher states that in the past five financial years, it has increased its sales by more than 1,100 percent. Consequently, it is planning to establish additional subsidiaries abroad.

Ralph Schemmerer, chief financial officer of Gehrlicher Solar AG, explained: "The facility will enable us to pursue sustainable growth and open up new markets in India, South Africa and Brazil." It already has subsidiaries in Italy, Spain, Greece, France, India and the U.S.

The company has also said it will use the credit to refinance its current syndicated loan of €95 million, which it secured back in December 2009. The credit facility was obtained through Bayern LB, which acted as Lead Manager and Mandated Lead Arranger, together with 18 other lenders.

Unique panel mounting system

Gehrlicher has additionally announced the deployment of its unique assembly and logistics system for the first time, in response to the trend of larger and heavier PV modules. The company states that its integrated system covers the full logistics chain, starting with the transport of the modules, from the manufacturing site up to the mounting of the modules, onto the support structure of the ground-mounted PV system.

Currently, the assembly robot is mounting 450 of the world’s reportedly largest PV modules in Sprotta, Germany. This, explains the company, involves the tracked "Gehrlicher Assembly Robot" lifting the modules out of a specially designed transport cassette and placing them onto the support structure, with the help of a swivel arm. Several backrails, pre-fixed to the back-side of the module, then fall into the Carrierrail, which is attached to the support structure. Next, the modules then slide into their final position, via gravity, and lock into the bearing bolts.

The system received the Intersolar Award in June 2010. Now Klaus Gehrlicher, CEO of Gehrlicher Solar AG, is pleased by the successful real-life application: "We are confirmed in our decision to pursue the path we have taken for our product development. The future trend for the economically viable construction of solar power plants clearly goes towards automation and standardization."

South African expansion

In other news, the company has formed a joint venture – Gehrlicher Ikhwezi (Pty) Ltd – with Ikhwezi Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd in South Africa.

Located in East London, the new company will focus on the installation of photovoltaics (PV) systems in the country. Gehrlicher added that specific emphasis will be placed on constructing PV systems and selling the generated power to large and small energy consumers, including off-grid applications that provide power to commercial customers, households and rural electrification projects.

Kali Mabentsela, chairperson of the Ikhwezi Group commented: "This partnership has come at an excellent time. With South Africa experiencing frequent power shortages, Gehrlicher Ikhwezi (Pty) Ltd is well placed to provide green solutions to South Africa’s power challenges. Furthermore, it adds to East London becoming the ‘renewable energy hub’ of southern Africa."