China's canny solar trade sidestep

A Chinese PV manufacturer's takeover of a European module maker could represent a new model for solar market consolidation amid global trade tensions.


Last Friday, an agreement was reached between the administrators for European-based Conergy and the Chinese solar PV manufacturer Astronergy, a subsidiary of the Chint Group, for Conergy’s module factory in Frankfurt.

It was reported that the factory could serve as a production base for Astronergy for shipments within the European Union, and could save more than 200 jobs.

Preliminary details of the deal were actually released on November 28, but were only finalised after the European Union had released regulation imposing definitive countervailing duties on c-Si PV modules and key components from China.

A price undertaking solution was included in the definitive measures of the European Commission, which calls for a minimum (or floor) pricing and a maximum annual volume (or quota) of Chinese c-Si modules and cells exported to the European Union.

It is understood that Astronergy is planning to expand its footprint within Europe through this acquisition, rather than simply being constrained to the price undertaking and quota levels applicable to Chinese-manufactured exports.

Indeed, other leading Chinese module suppliers have also been reviewing similar options. These include building factories outside China or the use of tolling through external partners’ fabs.

The acquisition by Astronergy represents another example of PV manufacturing consolidation. Other recent cases include the deal for Wuxi Suntech by Shunfeng PV, the proposed acquisition of the German module and cell production lines of Bosch Solar by Solarworld, and the joint venture plans between Trina Solar and the Changzhou Yabang Group.

Modules produced by the new Astronergy Solarmodule GmbH will partly be used to supply the downstream projects business of the newly-structured Conergy (now under Kawa Solar Holdings).

In order to avoid EU import conditions for c-Si modules from China, Astronergy will have to either ship cells from China (within the price undertaking framework specific to c-Si cells), or source cells from non-Chinese cell suppliers (such as from Taiwan).

Controlling module costs – while potentially enjoying a “Made in Germany” price supplement – will ultimately be key factors in determining the ultimate success of Astronergy’s European manufacturing strategy.

Originally published on NPD SolarBuzz. Reproduced with permission.

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