European consortium mulls mega solar factory to outshine Chinese | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 20.05.2014
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European consortium mulls mega solar factory to outshine Chinese

According to newspaper reports, a European group of researchers and business leaders is aiming to build a mega solar facility on the continent with a capacity eclipsing all existing units. But investors are divided.

Europe's solar industry appears unwilling to give in to Chinese market dominance, Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported Tuesday. It said a consortium of researchers and industry chiefs were considering building a huge factory for the production of solar modules.

The facility could eventually employ up to 1,200 people and achieve an annual production capacity of 1 gigawatt - twice as much as is generated in existing production facilities in Europe.

The active supporters of the project include the world's biggest solar research institute, Fraunhofer ISE in Freiburg, Germany, the French research institute INES, and the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology.

Concerted action needed

"We want to demonstrate that it's not yet too late for Europe's solar industry to turn the corner," ISE chief Eicke Weber was quoted as saying.

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German solar industry in crisis mode

A megafactory like the one envisaged by the European consortium would be able to make more cost-efficient solar modules than rival Chinese products, priced some 20 percent cheaper than those on the market now, the report said.

A pilot unit could start production in 2015, with the plant to become fully operational in 2018.

But Europe's solar companies are divided over whether to back the project. The biggest solar producer, Solarworld, for instance, indicated it had no interest in the scheme, citing tremendous investment risks.

hg/nz (dpa, Reuters)

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