Microsol moves Solon production to Asia with eye on India

Microsol will move Solon’s manufacturing operation to Asia, with the exception of a production line in Berlin, which will be used to continue to refine its technology.

Offering the clearest picture thus far of the new owner’s plans for Solon, Microsol’s director of corporate strategy, B Kasi Viswanathan, says Solon’s production footprint will be shifted to Asia “as we go along”, with one research-focused line to remain operational in Germany.

In March, Microsol, which is based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), acquired Solon after the German PV pioneer went bankrupt.

Microsol intends to add capacity to its existing 225MW cell plant in Fujairah, UAE, as well as establishing further cell and module facilities in India, which it has pinpointed as one of its primary growth markets.

The bankruptcy of Solon — Germany’s first publicly listed PV company — represented one of the most serious blows to the European PV sector, although it has been eclipsed by the collapse of Q-Cells.

With plants in Germany, Italy and the US, Solon produced more than 400MW of modules in 2010, the last full year for which figures are available.

Once one of the largest PV manufacturers in Italy, Solon shut its plant in the northern region of Veneto this year.

Microsol’s purchase of Solon sparked speculation that a wave of similar acquisitions could be in the offing.

However, heavy recent losses incurred by potential buyers in Asia, as well as the severe overcapacity that continues to plague the PV business, have dampened those expectations.

Viswanathan says Microsol needed to acquire a company such as Solon in order to remain competitive. Founded in 2003, Microsol’s business has centred on supplying Western module makers with low-cost cells — an area now dominated by Chinese and Taiwanese firms.

“We were a low-cost, high-quality cell manufacturer, but didn’t have the front-end marketing or the module segment,” he says. “It was compelling for us to look at someone like Solon, a premium brand in Europe.”

Solon had also developed a project-development and system-integration arm in recent years, which Microsol intends to expand in the growing Middle Eastern and Indian markets.

“We think it will take a few years, but India is going to be a gigawatt-plus market,” Viswanathan says.

He adds that Solon’s bankruptcy will not dent the bankability of its modules, pointing out that the reconstituted company has already pledged to assume “nearly all” warranties on existing Solon panels.