Meyer Burger is exploring pathways to manufacture solar cells in the United States. During an interview with investment bank Roth MKM, the company’s chief executive officer Gunter Erfurt suggested that its interest in domestic manufacturing had significantly increased following new guidance on the domestic content requirement.
The company said it plans to manufacture 2 GW per year of solar cells for the Goodyear, Arizona facility at the its current factory locations in Thalheim and Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany. Erfurt indicated that Meyer Burger had secured enough manufacturing space in the German “solar valley” to reach a manufacturing capacity of up to 15 GW annually.
However, following the release of the Internal Revenue Service’s domestic content guidance on May 12, the company started looking for space to manufacture solar cells near the Arizona facility. Erfurt stated that, while there are no explicit timelines, the sooner they begin production in the U.S., the better.
Phillip Shen, managing director at Roth MKM, suggested that without a domestically manufactured solar cell it would be very hard to meet the 40% requirement. When Shen asked if Meyer Burger believed the same, Erfurt suggested they did.
Meyer Burger reached out to Loan Programs Office at the Department of Energy (DOE). Erfurt noted that the DOE aims to stimulate more solar cell manufacturing and might potentially fund the construction of a solar cell facility.
The company currently manufactures about 800,000 solar cells per day, which fills approximately 6,000 solar modules. Once the company completes its 1.4 GW/year expansion, it’ll reach an output of about 10,000 modules per day.
As for funding these manufacturing facilities, Erfurt stated the company had adequate resources to achieve its 3.4 GW manufacturing capacity goal, which includes the aforementioned 2 GW of solar cell manufacturing that will be needed in the near future.
pv magazine USA has highlighted Meyer Burger’s deep financial ties with its largest solar panel customers. For instance, as part of a 3.75 GW (or larger) deal, DE Shaw Renewable Investments will make a significant annual down payment that will be used as working capital for purchasing wafers, glass, aluminum, silver, and other components.
As part of this transaction, it was also noted that the price of wafers floated, mirroring the price fluctuations of the actual modules purchased. Wafer prices have been on a downward trend in the solar industry, with Longi Solar registering a 31% price drop on May 29, 2023.
Erfurt also stated that deals with Ikea and a third, yet-to-be-named company, with whom Meyer Burger has already signed an offtake agreement, provide additional capital for the construction of their facilities.
Shen also asked Erfurt about potential contracts for the Goodyear facility’s production capacity. Erfurt clarified that the factory’s residential and small commercial panel line hadn’t yet made any agreements, because it didn’t align with how the distributors usually buy products. Shen, who also studies these groups as potential investments, proposed that residential installation firms Sunrun and Sunnova might be interested in Meyer Burger’s products, as they meet domestic content approval.
When Shen asked Erfurt if Meyer Burger was in talks with either of these residential companies about module offtake agreements, Erfurt confirmed that they were in discussions.
As a final note, Erfurt reiterated Meyer Burger’s future strategy: a complete shift to producing only glass glass solar modules. He confidently cited their laboratory tests, which show “zero degradation.”
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