‘We are at the dawn of a solar renaissance in Europe’


James Watson, CEO of EU industrial body SolarPower Europe, has welcomed reports a sale of Solarworld's German production facilities could be imminent.

The head of the European group – which represents companies at all levels of the solar supply chain – simultaneously predicted the lowering of trade barriers thrown up in part thanks to the lobbying of the ailing German manufacturer, could lead to a revitalized PV market in the EU.

Commenting on news a potential investor – said to be a European PV company – is nearing a deal to acquire Solarworld's production facilities in Freiberg, Mr Watson told pv magazine: “In terms of the EU manufacturing of panels it is good to see that the Solarworld site will be purchased and that panels will continue to be made there. We believe that an industrial policy for solar in Europe will be critical to making sure that panels continue to be made here, and in that sense we are pleased to see the site will be in production again.”

The effects of an anticipated global oversupply of panels – triggered by the abrupt halting of PV subsidy payments in China – are already starting to be seen on module prices, and with the world's biggest manufacturers seeking overseas sales, a mature European solar market which has been in the doldrums for years could be set for a revival.

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With Spanish company Prodiel recently becoming the first EU developer to break into the top ten of IHS Markit's international EPC league table – albeit largely thanks to projects in Latin America – solar is showing signs of life in the ‘Old World'.

Illustrating the tightrope his organization has to walk in speaking on behalf of solar manufacturers and project developers, Mr. Watson said the recent expiry of minimum import prices for Chinese-made panels sold in the EU must be good news for PV adoption across the 28-member political bloc.

“We are at the dawn of a solar renaissance in Europe,” said Mr Watson. “Next year, three EU countries could install more than the combined 28 EU countries installed in 2017. That would be Spain, France and Germany. We expect the market to reach double digit installations in 2019 and beyond.

“The removal of the trade barriers will help EPCs who are engaged in activities in countries where there are tenders and also where there are strong PPA opportunities. It is particularly this latter opportunity that will be served by the reduction in price of panels, as grid parity will be more easily achieved, making solar PPAs more interesting from an offtaker point of view.”

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