New 70 MW module fab planned for Europe

Solar module producer Orange Solar Power is to set up a 70 MW solar module production plant in the Netherlands this year, pledging to herald a return of PV manufacturing to the European solar industry.

The company will realize phase 1 of its plan by the end of the third quarter of this year, developing an initial 15 MW production line of flexible solar modules in the Dutch region of West-Brabant.

Once fully operational, the 70 MW fab will boast a production capacity of 280,000 solar modules per year, and will create jobs for 60 people.

Phase 1 will develop a production line for the company’s Monoflex modules, which are lightweight, flexible modules that have a cell efficiency of 18%.

For phase 2, Orange Solar Power will develop a further 55 MW production line that will manufacture standard multicrystalline solar modules. This production line is projected for completion before the year is out.

"Where the production of solar modules in Europe and in the Netherlands has all-but disappeared in the past few years, this will be the kick-off of a revival," said Orange Solar Power CEO Guust Verpaalen. "The direct investment in the new factory amounts to €5 million ($5.2 million) and offers a significant contribution to local employment."

The CEO made it clear that job creation was paramount in the company’s thoughts, adding that it is people who make the real difference in the solar industry. "In light of this," he said, "the recruiting and selection process in the period ahead will enjoy our fullest attention."

CCO Walter Van Loon added: "We are going to be looking for people with the Orange Solar Power factor, which is reliability, innovation and passion for the industry."

Currently, the Dutch solar module producer imports the majority of its solar cells from Taiwain and elsewhere in Europe, but has pledged that the new factory will use mainly European components as the company seeks to halt the demise of the continent’s solar PV manufacturing landscape.

Last year, Europe added just 7 GW of new PV capacity – down by two-thirds on its 2011 performance, and many leading European PV manufacturers have either shifted production overseas or are now part-owned by foreign investors, including Norway’s REC Solar, which was is currently negotiating a takeover from Chinese-owned company Bluestar Elkem.