CSUN opens Turkey PV factory

China’s CSUN has formally opened its Istanbul PV factory and says module capacity will reach 300MW by the end of June, in a move that looks highly prescient given the likelihood of imminent EU tariffs.

Opened in the presence of Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz, the plant will also boast 100MW of cell capacity. It has been under construction since late 2012, when CSUN announced the joint venture with local partner Seul Energy.

The Istanbul factory is “the next step in [our] globalisation approach”, says CSUN chief executive Stephan Cai, who insists it will transform the Nanjing-based company into a “global tier 1 player”.

In addition to allowing CSUN to produce modules close to the EU which will not face the tariffs being imposed on China-made PV kit, the factory will also give the company a leg up in the soon-to-boom Turkish and wider Middle Eastern solar markets.

Turkey added only 2MW of PV last year, but it is the only country in the region with a solar feed-in tariff in place, and experts believe the market is set to take off in 2013 and 2014.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are tipped to lead the Middle Eastern solar market, which is predicted by GTM to reach 3.5GW annually by 2017 before expanding rapidly from there.

Turkey – which has a fast-growing demand for electricity and remains heavily reliant on imported natural gas from Russia and Iran – may sign off on some 600MW of FIT-eligible PV capacity this year, much of it utility-scale. The country’s largest PV system to date is less than 500kW.

However, Turkey’s FIT includes a significant bonus for local content, leading CSUN to evaluate the prospect of sourcing local materials such as glass, frames and backsheets.

CSUN expects its modules to be compliant with the local-content rules by the end of 2013.

CSUN – historically a cell maker before diversifying into modules via several 2010 acquisitions – was one of the last Chinese PV companies to list shares in the US, undergoing an initial public offering on the Nasdaq exchange in 2007.

The company ended last year with 1.16GW of module capacity, more than 200MW of which had been relocated to Turkey as of 31 December 2012.

CSUN – which lost $133.6m last year on $292.7m of revenue – is also building a 1GW cell plant in Jiangsu province.