Singapore set to play with PV’s big boys

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The expo and conference was relatively quiet compared to the packed halls of Intersolar or SNEC Shanghai. However, the top management were present, and the quieter halls gave many a chance to sit down and actually talk business.

One German manufacturer said he has had the opportunity to speak with CEOs from Chinese companies for a good hour at this show – something that is difficult to do at the bigger exhibitions, mainly because of the traffic.

And, while the rather somber photovoltaic situation and looming euro crisis may have dampened things a little for the industry, people are remaining positive. As Schmid’s Frank Tinnefeld told pv magazine, "Yes, things may be a little slow and the shakeout maybe happening, but I believe that the industry will pick up by 2013."

The Economic Development Board’s (EDBs) Goh Chee Kiong additionally said that he is pleased with this very first photovoltaic expo in Singapore. He added that the first step has already been taken to place Singapore on the solar map. The country may not develop to be a huge market, but it is definitely turning out to be a prime location for photovoltaic manufacturers to set up their research and development facilities, and Asian Pacific headoffices.

The support from the country’s EBD is also clear as Si Pro’s CEO Erik Bjorstad highlighted. "Singapore is optimal for our facility, because the same level of environmental protection and regulations apply here as in Norway," stated Bjorstad. This is something important to the Norwegian company, which recycles silicon lost in the value chain.

Recycling is also becoming a very big issue in an industry that cannot automatically qualify as green just because the product enables green energy. "Having a facility in Singapore as well allows for us to cooperate with companies in the region easily and help them recover a high yield," Bjorstad added.

Recycling in the crystalline value chain is something that is less talked about. The lower profit margins are, however, pushing for more ways to save, and recycling of the large amount of silicon that is lost in the value chain – about 70 percent – can, without a doubt, help manufacturers cut costs.

Speedy

Singapore is also apparently a speedy country. "Things move really quickly in Singapore," stated Heraeus’ photovoltaic unit vice president, Andy London. The company is set to hold its Asian Photovoltaic Center’s grand opening tomorrow in Singapore. "We broke ground in February and were finished by May," London told pv magazine.

Not just how fast infrastructure is developed, but also the importance placed on Intellectual property protection in Singapore is advantageous.

Add to the mix the ease of setting up on the island, the hassle-free bureaucratic processes, which allow photovoltaic players to exist in a business-friendly environment, the easily trained and qualified workforce and, now, the very first photovoltaic show, and it is easy to see why Singapore is ready to play ball with solar’s big boys.