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Bringing solar manufacturing back to its European roots

An EU initiative is supporting the development of an assembly solution for manufacturers of building-integrated photovoltaic (PV) panels.

© Martin Henke, Shutterstock

With continued efforts to speed up deployment of PV systems that are already expanding faster than any other renewable energy source, it’s crucial to boost investments in this area. Enter the PV Impact project that aims to stimulate private sector spending on PV research, development and innovation across the EU. This is crucial, especially now as the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 health crisis continue to unfold, highlighting several weaknesses in various industries like solar energy. Recognising this sector’s heavy dependence on solar cells and panels made in Asia, the French company SOLEAN has set its eyes on helping European PV panel manufacturers, particularly small companies, so that they can function more economically and with greater agility. SOLEAN has teamed up with Photowatt, a trademark of EDF ENR PWT – a PV Impact project partner – to further develop its PV assembly solution. According to a news item on the ‘pv magazine’ website, SOLEAN co-founders Claude Jacquot and Arnaud Goy “claim that their fully automated production lines can bring solar manufacturing back to its European roots.” Quoted in the same news item, Jacquot says: “There are a lot of small manufacturers who only have one production line, often manual or semi-automatic, and which need to shift up a gear.” He adds: “They do not have the means to set up ultra-capacity factories and need, rather agile and flexible tools that can automate bespoke production.”

Automating customisation

According to the same piece, the SOLEAN team believes that “their production line would also be ideal for manufacturers fabricating building-integrated PV panels with complex structures or designs.” The news item states that the team also highlights vehicle-integrated PV as another example. “Our equipment offers the possibility of producing various panels – for roofs, facades, cars or buses … and to be able to automate this customization while having acceptable costs,” the co-founders note. “We want to assemble the ‘unassemblable’.” The news item adds that the company’s “assembly solution is a modular line based on three sub-unit[s]: a stringer, an assembling equipment and a laminator. The stringer, which can operate independently, should be ready in the fall. The stringer demonstrator will be available in June, announced Jacquot and Goy.” The PV Impact (Actual execution of the Implementation Plan for Photovoltaics and monitoring the Implementation Plan’s delivery) project will run until March 2022. To help the private sector increase investments, the project “will invite companies to matchmaking events so they can make new connections and find partners with whom to work on their plans,” as noted on the project website. In addition, it will “bring targeted support to the European photovoltaic industrial development plans,” the project website adds. In line with this, Photowatt will support start-ups and SMEs, while ENEL Green Power, also a partner in the PV Impact consortium, “will make progress on the Implementation Plan by coordinating the many different PV actors in Italy.” The project will also “track whether improvements in the performance of PV technology are keeping pace with expectations and will make recommendations to European funding authorities on how they can play their part in putting European PV technology back to the top of the class if it is falling behind,” as stated on the project website. For more information, please see: PV Impact project website

Keywords

PV Impact, photovoltaic, solar, PV panel, SOLEAN