Intersolar Europe: utilization rates high, for some

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As the second day of the Intersolar Europe trade show wound down, some manufacturers have reported high utilization rates at their facilities. Hanwha Q CELLS CEO Charles Kim said that its cell and module operations in Germany and Malaysia were running at 100% capacity, a marked turnaround from when the company was sliding into insolvency in 2012. Japan’s Solar Frontier described its operations as running at "full blast."

In October 2012, Korean Hanwha SolarOne completed its acquisition of German cell and module manufacturer Q CELLS. Since then, the company has been able to ramp up its production back to enviable utilization rates, allowing it to reduce manufacturing costs.

Hanwha Q CELLS CEO Charles Kim told pv magazine on Thursday that the company had seen buyers regain confidence in the company since the acquisition of the German manufacturer by the Hanwha Group’s solar operations.

Hanwha Q CELLS’ sales are understood to have dropped off when the firm was in insolvency. In 2013, by contrast, Kim said the company has seen "strong sales" in Europe and the U.S. and in the booming Japanese market. "As Q CELLS came out of insolvency our customers’ confidence in Q CELLS was restored." Kim said that in North America, Hanwha Q CELLS was supplying modules through its well established project development and EPC business.

Japan is also providing strong demand for Hanwha Q CELLS. Kim said that the company is set to supply 300 MW of photovoltaic cells and modules to Japan, almost one-third of its output. "Japan is a big market for us and we are fully leveraging the Hanwha network in Japan." Various business units of the Hanwha Group have had offices in Japan for more than 30 years.

Kim cited his personal experience of doing business with the Japanese trading company Marubeni. "When I was a department head at Hanwha, many years ago, I was in charge of purchasing technology from Marubeni. We have that kind of relationship," said Kim. On Wednesday Hanwha announced that it had signed a deal to supply 82 MW to Marubeni for a project near the town of Oita.

Still looking at Japan, domestic thin film producer Solar Frontier has told pv magazine that not only is it running at full capacity, but that its modules are sold out through the second quarter of 2014. Atsuhiko Hirano, director of global sales and marketing, said that while there are some modules in the company’s warehouses, they are fully accounted for. Solar Frontier is operating its 900 MW Kunitomi facility and two smaller older fabs.

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