Solar players are now very willing to relocate to Europe again to cater for soaring demand as the continent tries to wean itself off Russian energy imports and meet climate targets, Carsten Körnig, chief executive of the German solar industry federation (BSW Solar) said at the opening of the Intersolar 2022 event in Munich.

Several companies during Intersolar or in the weeks following will make public their interest in investing in Europe once more, Körnig said without revealing more detail, following in the footsteps of German manufacturer Meyer Burger, which in April said it will boost its solar module producing capacity in Freiberg, Germany, to 1.4GW by next year.

“It would definitely make sense to rebuild at least half of the manufacturing capacity that is needed to cover domestic and European demand on the continent, and also to complete the supply chain,” Körnig said at a press conference.

“Meyer Burger [is] an example in Germany [of a company that] would also like to advance very quickly to gigawatt scale, not only in the area of module production, but also in cell production. Other examples will soon follow in Europe.”

Körnig’s comments came after the chairman of French start-up Carbon in an interview this week told Recharge that his company plans to build up to 20GW in solar manufacturing capacity in the EU by 2030.

As well as solar cell and module manufacturing, it would also be advantageous to build up a wafer production capacity in Europe again, Körnig said, adding that Germany’s new government has started a dialogue with the sector, which needs a reliable expansion perspective for its growth.

Europe’s, and in particular Germany’s, once mighty solar manufacturing sector had crumbled in the last decade amid cheap competition from China, while at the same time domestic political and financial support in Europe waned.

If Berlin wants to get serious in its plans to near quadruple Germany’s solar power generation capacity from 60GW now to 215GW by 2030, certain EU support mechanisms that currently exist, for example to build up new battery manufacturing capacity, also need to be opened up for the PV sector in order to reach gigawatt scale again, Körnig said.

Germany last year added 6GW of new solar capacity, but additions need to soar to 22GW per year on average to meet the government’s 2030 target, he added.

Intersolar, which had shrunk to six halls in Munich some years ago amid Germany’s solar crisis, now together with its adjacent exhibitions on energy storage, e-charging and energy management has bounced back to an exhibition across 12 halls, with an expected 50,000 visitors.

The war in Ukraine has given a further boost to the industry, Markus Elsässer, chief executive of Solar Promotion that is organising Intersolar, said at the opening press conference. He added that “demand is exploding”, helped by e-mobility and heat pumps, but cautioned that the sector has major difficulties to find specialist professionals, and still has to undertake huge efforts to overcome supply chain bottlenecks in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.