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Solar Production Technology
A job with a bright outlook
The current solar crisis is forcing companies to cut jobs. Yet producers, the trade and the solar engineering sector will need large numbers of qualified employees to cope with the future growth of photovoltaic technology. Universities are already expanding their range of courses.
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Many posts in production are hanging in the balance due to the current solar crisis. (Photo: Bosch)
Equipment from Germany:show photos
Most Chinese manufacturers fit their module factories with German solar machines. (Photo: Schmid)
Quality guaranteed:show photos
German suppliers of solar systems are relying on consumers' brand awareness for better sales. (Photo: Solarworld)
Melting point for trainees:show photos
Peter Frey has experienced all of the highs and lows of the solar industry. Today, the experienced solar researcher runs the business at "Solarvalley Mitteldeutschland", a large cluster in the photovoltaics (PV) industry. 35 manufacturers and ten suppliers are now established here, providing work for a total of 15,000 people.
But the sky over the solar valley has darkened. "It has never been so hard," says Frey. The main reason for the crisis is major excess capacity. Analysts estimate that in 2012 around 30 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic power will be installed worldwide – whilst the production capacity for solar modules lies at almost 50 gigawatts. This means that manufacturers are often having to sell the panels below the manufacturing cost. "There is a very cut-throat price war going on," explains Frey.
In April, Q-Cells was the fourth German solar company to declare insolvency. More than 1,000 employees in Germany are now hoping for a new investor. For the 1,200 employees at the First Solar factory in Frankfurt an der Oder, however, all hope is lost. The American thin film manufacturer will be shutting down the factory in autumn, completely closing its doors in Germany apart from sales.
If manufacture is cut back, it means that fewer raw materials and less equipment will be needed. The Swabian solar engineering firm Centrotherm suffered a loss of almost 20 million euros in 2011, leading to 400 employees having to leave the company.
Is this the end for Germany as a solar production location? How safe are the 130,000 jobs that the photovoltaics industry is still offering here? Carsten Körnig, chief managing director of the German Solar Industry Association (BSW), takes an optimistic view of the future, despite the problems. "In the PV roadmap, the solar industry has set the goal of keeping the number of employees at at least the current level until 2020. In our opinion, this goal is still attainable," says Körnig.