Fresh start for Nanosolar in Germany

Nanosolar GmbH, the erstwhile German manufacturing arm of bankrupt US thin-film PV specialist Nanosolar, has been renamed Smartenergy Renewables Deutschland after its new Swiss owner, and re-orientated as an independent power producer.

The move is a positive signal for Germany’s battered upstream PV sector, with Smartenergy claiming it is expanding its workforce in advance of commercial module production from early 2014.

California-based Nanosolar was a copper, indium, gallium, selenide (CIGS) specialist, but this summer its German subsidiary said it would abandon CIGS for traditional crystalline silicon (c-Si) after being purchased by a then-unnamed investor.

That investor turned out to be Smartenergy Renewables, a Zurich-based renewables developer which was among Nanosolar’s biggest customers in Europe.

“We are transforming the company from a contract module manufacturer to a service and solution provider around PV and other renewable-power plants,” explains Christian Pho Duc, managing director at Smartenergy Renewables Deutschland, and a former vice president at both Nanosolar and the ill-starred Solyndra.

“We will serve our and our clients’ projects with highly efficient PV modules combined with investment solutions, asset management, O&M and optimization services,” Duc adds.

Nanosolar GmbH boasted a CIGS module production capacity of 115MW, but the company told Rechargethis summer that it would significantly shrink production after its acquisition and c-Si pivot, at least initially.

In addition to producing c-Si modules for utility-scale PV projects, most of which will be soaked up by its downstream projects arm, Smartenergy will manufacture panels targeting the building-integrated PV market – a segment which has largely disappointed its advocates in recent years, but which is still seen as holding vast future potential.

Smartenergy’s BIPV modules will be compatible with “a large variety of roof types and facades”, the company says.

Smartenergy claims it will continue to service Nanosolar GmbH’s former CIGS customers for the foreseeable future.

The re-starting of manufacturing at Smartenergy is a welcome change in Germany, which has seen its upstream PV footprint decimated over the past few years.

Earlier this week Aleo, a rival German module maker, admitted that the most hopeful set of talks it was having with a prospective buyer had collapsed.