SolarWorld plans to shift domestic cell production within Germany

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German solar manufacturer SolarWorld is planning a domestic shuffle of its cell production capabilities, and is considering shifting all cell manufacturing to Arnstadt, leaving its Freiberg hub to increase its wafer output.

According to local media reports, the German firms wishes to optimize its production process and lower costs in order to compete with increasingly low-cost competition from China.

Company spokesman Milan Nitschke told pv magazine Deutschland that SolarWorld will in all likelihood concentrate solar module and wafer production at its Freiberg facility, with a smaller cell production capability at its main business hub in Arnstadt.

Further details of the planned relocation are sketchy, but Nitschke did reveal to pv magazine that there could be “possible employment impacts” in relation to the proposals. Currently, SolarWorld employs around 1,300 staff at Freiberg, 160 of whom are active in cell production.

In mid-January, SolarWorld revealed that it was to invest a double-digit million (€) sum in upgrading its Freiburg wafer production facility, ordering new diamond wire saws from Meyer Burger in the process. This equipment is due to be delivered to site from Q2 onwards.

In scaling up its wafer facility and developing its Arnstadt cell fab, SolarWorld hopes to optimize its German production capabilities in the wake of increased price pressure. “We are competing with particularly favorable imports from Asia, especially dumped products from China,” said Nitzschke. “We can only win this competition by focusing on high-quality products that offer a significant added value over performance and service life.”

SolarWorld assumed ownership of the Arnstadt production facilities from Bosch in 2014 after the latter company withdrew from the solar industry. With solar module prices slumping to record lows in the second half of 2016, SolarWorld has already begun making staffing and production changes to reflect the new low-cost reality, laying off around 500 temporary domestic workers last September.

There are currently approximately 100 temporary staffs on the books at SolarWorld’s Freiberg facility.

This article was edited and translated by Ian Clover.