13 European PV equipment makers pitch their machines to U.S. PV manufacturers

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Representatives of 13 European PV equipment makers, mostly from Germany, met with U.S. PV manufacturers in a daylong conference and networking event in Washington, D.C.

VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment, a section of the VDMA trade group representing the machinery and equipment manufacturing industry in Germany and Europe, organized the event in cooperation with U.S. institutions.

The meeting’s purpose was “essentially to matchmake between EU equipment suppliers and PV manufacturers expanding in the U.S.,” said Michael Parr, executive director of the Ultra-Low Carbon Solar Alliance, an event co-sponsor.

Parr told the international gathering that with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the U.S. is incentivizing, for the first time, both PV manufacturing and deployment, over “a clear 10-year runway.”

The U.S. market opportunity for PV equipment manufacturers is $1 to 1.5 billion through 2030 for capital equipment alone, said Lawrence Heath, a consultant with McKinsey, not counting profit margin or add-on contracts for operation and maintenance. That projection is based on an assumption that the U.S. would add 50 GW of PV manufacturing capacity by 2030, he said.

Christian Staudt, a partner at McKinsey, showed a bar chart of the countries of origin for key components in the PV supply chain, with China shown in red, and said “taking geopolitics aside, no one would design a supply chain like this and say ‘That’s a resilient supply chain,’ because if anything goes wrong in the red color, this is breaking down.”

The U.S. will need to install 100 GW of PV per year by 2030, said Markus Beck, a program manager at the Solar Energy Technologies Office of the U.S. Department of Energy, citing DOE’s Solar Futures Study. “Currently, ingot, wafer or cell manufacturing depend on technology transfer” of equipment into the U.S., he said.

“This has to be sustainable in the long term,” he said. “This cannot be just put it in the ground, and then when IRA disappears, it fails. That means you have to be competitive.” Even if the U.S. can produce domestically 50% to 60% of the PV modules needed, he said, 40% of modules will still be imported, so domestic producers “will have to compete with the importer,” and to do that “you have to have strong, reliable partners,” he said.

VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment described a panel discussion at the event as focusing on “technological sovereignty by strong US/EU friendshoring relationships in light of the Inflation Reduction Act.”

The 13 participating European PV equipment makers, and their primary technologies, are:

  • 4JET, offering advanced laser solutions, such as for next-generation thin-film PV
  • Bürkle, offering technologies for coating and lamination
  • Envelon/Grenzebach, specializing in solar facades, a form of building-integrated PV
  • HEGLA, offering glass handling and glass cutting solutions
  • ISRA Vision, offering automatic optical inspection solutions
  • M10, offering module production equipment
  • RCT Solutions, offering fully integrated PV manufacturing facilities
  • RENA, specializing in wet chemical process equipment and texturing equipment
  • Siemens, offering plant-wide automation solutions, or digital manufacturing
  • Singulus Technologies, offering vacuum equipment and sputtering, and wet chemistry solutions
  • ViscoTec, offering precise dispensing equipment for liquids
  • Vitronic, offering automatic optical inspection systems
  • Wavelabs, offering LED-based solar simulators to enable detection of manufacturing defects.

VDMA members have been involved in 30 projects totaling 72 GW of PV capacity in the past two years, said Puzant Baliozian, a project manager with the organization.

Stating one more reason for domestic production, Parr, with the Ultra-Low Carbon Solar Alliance, said that some PV modules are produced with carbon emissions at half the level of other modules, or less, and that buyers “increasingly recognize this and value it.”

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