Hidden Champions of the Solar Industry are in Germany

Solar Value Chain in Germany

New study highlights advanced Thin Film PV supply chain and innovation opportunities in Germany

With the Coal Commission’s recommendation for a complete coal phase-out, and an ambitious goal to achieve 65 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, there is big potential for solar energy in Germany. A new study by DIW Econ draws attention to solar photovoltaics being the cheapest source of energy available today, and that the majority of the growth and expansion of renewables in coming years will come from photovoltaics. The study highlights economic opportunities available in Germany through a significant number of hidden champions in solar: the thin-film photovoltaic technology industry. Unlike crystalline silicon based photovoltaic technology, which was subject to a global commoditization accompanied by a strong shift of the value chain away from Germany, thin-film PV still supports a booming value chain in Germany. The thin film industry has successfully established an average market share between 5 percent (globally) and 10 percent (Germany) over the last 20 years. The new study suggests significant innovation potential for thin-film photovoltaics throughout the country.

Solar Value Chain in Germany EN
Solar Value Chain in Germany. Click to view larger image.

Germany houses world market leaders in thin film PV manufacturing equipment, which is highly innovative,“ said Dr. Anselm Mattes, author of the study at DIW Econ. „The industry not only serves the goals for the German Energy Transition, but also enables the low cost and eco-efficient global energy transition.“

Germany’s existing value chain for PV thin-film technology is robust and spans across the country, with more than 85 companies contributing to the sector in research and development, manufacturing, and recycling. The study demonstrates that there has been significant progress in innovation in thin-film technology in recent years, and analyzes its market competitiveness. The report shows thin-film as being the cheapest PV technology with the lowest unsubsidized Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE). It also points to the small carbon footprint of thin-film when compared to other solar technologies.

In order to meet the Energiewende objectives in Germany, and also the global ambition for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the world is in need for all the innovation it can get from renewable energy technologies. Thin-Film PV has an important role to play here, given the track record off efficiency improvements and low cost manufacturing demonstrated over the last two decades. Moving forward, the combination of traditional crystalline silicon with advanced thin-film technologies, in tandem, incorporating bi-facial structures offers a unique opportunity for another quantum leap in terms of efficiency improvement and cost reduction in PV,“ said Andreas Wade, president of non-profit international association, PVThin, „With the strong thin film value chain in Germany, the country is in the ideal position to be at the forefront of these developments and championing the implementation of these next generation concepts.

The report explains that emerging thin-film technologies are showing great potential for further technological development and cost reductions. A testament to potential for German thin-film technological advancements is Oxford PV, a spinoff from Oxford University. The company acquired the former Bosch CISTech factory in Brandenburg an der havel, and has since been ranked one of the Top 50 most innovative companies in the world by the German edition of MIT Technology Review. Oxford PV has developed a tandem solar cell solution that uses its unique perovskite technology that is easily integrated into silicon solar cell and module production lines.

Our perovskite-on-silicon technology is capable of breaking solar cell efficiency limits, and we are expecting to transform the economics of silicon solar technology,” said Chris Case, chief technology officer at Oxford PV, “What we are doing here in Germany will only continue to grow photovoltaic energy generation globally.”

To read the full study and executive summary, visit: www.pvthin.org/diweconstudy

About PVthin

PVthin is an international, not-for-profit coalition representing global leaders in the thin film solar industry that manufacture and market products based on chalcogenide, chalcopyrite and kesterite compounds such as cadmium telluride (CdTe), Copper Indium [Gallium] Selenide (CIS/CIGS) and perovskites. Thin film photovoltaics (PV) emerged onto the market as an affordable alternative to the slow production and high cost of traditional purified crystalline silicon wafers. PVthin is registered as a non-profit international association under Belgian law. For more information, visit www.pvthin.org


DIW Econ is an economic analysis and consulting firm and is a 100% subsidiary of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin). Customers primarily consist of German and international companies, but also include international institutions and public clients, such as ministries and educational institutions. For more information, visit https://www.diw-econ.com/

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