Yingli strikes France assembly pact

China’s Yingli Solar has unveiled plans to begin producing “co-branded” modules in France with an unnamed local partner, marking a new step for the world’s largest PV module supplier.

While much about the deal remains vague, Yingli says it will supply cells to its French partner, which will then assemble them locally into co-branded modules, in a move aimed at meeting the requirements of France’s current national PV tender programme.

Yingli says its new French partner won module orders totaling 185MW from a variety of developers in recent tender rounds, all of which must be completed within 24 months.

While France has produced a number of high-profile global PV developers, including Solairedirect and EDF-EN, the country has few surviving module-assemblers after several years of painful consolidation – with Photowatt perhaps most prominent among those left.

While a number of tier-one Chinese PV manufacturers including ReneSola and China Sunergy have elected to set up module-assembly plants overseas to elude trade tariffs or engender good will in emerging markets, and other Chinese players have openly contemplated the option, Yingli’s new deal appears to be a first for the company.

“The partnership will not only reinforce our leading positions in the French market, but also contribute to a promising local solar industry in the long run,” says Arnaud Catrice, managing director of Yingli France.

Like its offshore wind tenders, France’s PV programme takes a number of factors into account when weighing projects against each other, including the offered cost of electricity, the carbon footprint, and the amount of innovative kit that will be used – with the latter factor aimed at helping local players at the expense of high-volume Chinese producers.

Soitec, the French CPV specialist, has emerged as one of the biggest beneficiaries of France's recent solar tenders.