07 August 2012
German façade and solar company Schüco has announced to completely shut down its amorphous silicon (a-Si) thin-film production in Germany. Also the R&D facility at Schüco’s headquarters in Bielefeld will close. The company said that, coming from a turnover of more than one billion Euros in 2010, sales declined by 19% in 2011 and again double-digit in the first half year 2012. While the R&D department will be closed by the end of the year, the two production sites, which both are located in the Eastern part of Germany, will shut down by the end of September and even by the end of this month, respectively.
According to media reports, almost 300 workers will lose their jobs. This is another setback for the German PV industry, and in particular for the once booming solar valley regions in East Germany. Schüco says that the general price decline in the PV sector, the uncertain political framework for PV in many countries, and in particular the unexpected massive price drop for crystalline PV modules in the past years makes a profitable production of thin-film modules in Germany impossible. A-Si thin-film has amongst the lowest efficiency rate of all thin-film technologies. Even before the Schüco-announcement, other thin-film manufacturers have backed off from the German marked with their production before or went into bankruptcy, such as Global Solar and Soltecture.
On the other hand, Schott Solar gained attention a few weeks ago with their announcement to retreat from crystalline PV production and fully concentrate on thin-film technology; and Solarion just a few days ago started production of CIGS modules in a completely new built factory near Leipzig. Still, unlike expectations toward the development of thin-film technology some three years ago, since its peak of close to 20% in 2009 the market share of thin film dropped substantially. What seems to be clear is that with the massive price decline of silicium and thus crystalline PV cells, the competitive advantage of thin-film with its lower production costs further shrinks, while the gap in module efficiency is not closing at the same level.
Written by Andreas Breyer, Senior Editor, Germany, Solar Novus Today