Meyer Burger looks to US expansion for growth
European solar cell and panel maker Meyer Burger Technology is looking to the US for expansion as component shortages hit production.
The company is adding additional module production capacity in Goodyear, Arizona to boost capacity from 1.6 to around 2GW. Cell production capacity in Germany will be increased accordingly, funded by down payments from two new long-term offtake agreements starting in 2025.
The company doubled its capacity last year, with further expansion to approximately 1.4 gigawatts (GW) to be completed in 2023. It is also applying to the European Union Innovation Fund for over CHF100m to build additional gigawatt capacity. That decision is due in the summer.
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However the transition to a new production technology, glass-on-glass modules, and ongoing supply bottlenecks for industrial electronics components, the 2023 production target had to be reduced to around 0.8 GW at the beginning of March.
The 25% expansion of glass-glass production in the US will be made possible by optimizing production. However boosting the cell capacity in Thalheim (Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany) will require significant investments in new equipment.
The company aims to grow overall capacity to around 3 GW by the end of 2024 but has scaled back growth in 2023.
The company saw net sales increasing to CHF 147.2 million ($160m) in 2022, up from CHF 39.9 million ($43m) in 2021 as the change to producing modules took effect. As production ramped up, the number of employees increased, resulting in staff expenses of CHF 68.0 million (2021: CHF 60.4 million) with 400 new employees, mainly at the German production sites in Thalheim and Freiberg.
The company saw a loss of CHF 34.6m, down from CHF72.5m in 2021, with CHF 293.2m of cash available.
The strongest markets are Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Italy, although products were approved for sale in the UK and Australia this year with around 50 wholesalers andmore than a thousand registered installers.
Meyer Burger has strengthened the resilience and stability of its supply chains for materials with contracts with two Norwegian suppliers for the supply of high-quality silicon wafers with a low CO2 footprint.
It has developed a new unified product platform based on glass-glass modules that are largely equivalent to the current glass-foil modules in terms of weight, dimensions and appearance. These future modules have higher longevity and reduce operational complexity in manufacturing, logistics, research and development.
New production technologies and equipment are already used in the expansion to approximately 3.4 GW of annual capacity. The switch to the larger M10 wafer formats, in particular for modules for the utility segment, was successful with durability tests on modules with back-contact cells (IBC heterojunction technology) demonstrated a significant reduction in degradation.
Together with a consortium of leading European research institutes, Meyer Burger is also working on the commercialisation of tandem solar technology that provides higher efficiency by combining the silicon cells with a top layer of a perovskite cell.