ABB expresses faith in solar

Swiss engineering group ABB looks set to expand its activities in the solar industry following the appointment of chief executive designate Ulrich Spiesshofer, who will succeed outgoing CEO Joe Hogan in September.

While major rivals Siemens and Bosch have exited the solar market in view of massive losses, ABB is eager to continue in the sector as long as it makes strategic sense for the Zurich-based multinational.

Maxine Ghavi, the head of ABB’s solar business, said in an interview with German daily Handelsblatt that the global solar energy market would grow strongly in the coming years and expressed confidence that the sector would be stable and profitable in the long term.

ABB has expanded its photovoltaic activities in recent months; in April it agreed to buy California-based inverter manufacturer Power-One for about $1 billion, a move the company has said would make it a leading global supplier of solar inverters. It has also recently announced plans to expand inverter production facilities in South Africa and India in addition to existing plants in Estonia and China.

"With Power-One, we are now buying a manufacturer of solar inverters," Ghavi said. "They form the brain of a photovoltaic system. Therefore, there is less risk that these devices will become cheaper mass produced goods."

She added that the acquisition of Power-One provided ABB with "access to the entire market, from private homes and commercial buildings to power plants."

The worldwide market is expected to grow more than 10% in the next few years, she added. "That’s why we are investing in the business."

Ghavi said in the Handelsblatt interview, published in Thursday’s edition, that the company was open for potential acquisitions in the solar sector if they made sense, strengthened existing activities and bolstered the value chain. "We certainly do not want to invest in solar panels."

Ghavi added that ABB insured its investment in the industry by focusing on the technologies that it knows best, such as network engineering and power electronics. "We do everything possible to produce electricity with solar energy."

What ABB does not do, Ghavi stressed, is manufacture solar modules or develop solar parks.