Hermes launches trial run for solar module production facility in Sofia

The Bulgarian-Russian company has incorporated its new module production facility in a high-tech Hermes Solar complex in the city of Sofia, in which hydrogen technologies will be researched and developed alongside photovoltaic and storage technologies.

Overall, says Hermes Solar chief technology officer Georgiy Seropyan, the group has invested €30 million in the high-tech center and €20 million in the new module production line, which has an annual capacity of 60 MW. The facility also boasts a remarkably high level of automation for its size: 94%, according to the company.

The Italian machine manufacturer Ecoprogetti delivered the turnkey plant, which is equipped with, among other things, an inline laminator. According to production manager Vladimir Fabrin, however, it is still unclear what types of modules with which specifications the facility will deliver.

The manufacturer is planning to build multi-crystalline modules of 200 to 250 w or monocrystalline modules with an output of 280 w. It remains unclear from where the cells are to be obtained. Hermes Solar is in talks with Taiwanese suppliers but it is also considering setting up its own cell production unit in Bulgaria or Turkey. In addition, the company is currently in negotiations with several material suppliers. It seems clear that Italian manufacturer Coveme will provide backsheets for the modules, as Coveme CEO Bruno Bucchi told pv magazine.

The new Hermes Solar modules are to be delivered in September, mainly to European markets as well as Turkey, said Fabrin. Bulgaria’s domestic market has all but collapsed due to political squabbling over solar feed-ins. Nikola Gazdov, chairman of the Bulgarian Photovoltaic Association, said he expects "zero growth" this year.

Nevertheless, Fabrin says the company may secure a competitive advantage in the European market due to the unresolved trade dispute between the EU and China over cheap Chinese PV imports. Fabrin says he expects Chinese modules will at least receive minimum import prices. Time will tell whether the calculations prove correct. Fabrin could not yet provide detailed information on the efficiencies or prices of the new Hermes Solar "Made in Bulgaria" modules.

Translated by Edgar Meza