Q-Cells AG (Xetra) in Thalheim (Germany) became the world's second largest producer of solar cells in 2005 with a 9% market share. The company has continued growing in 2006, with production increasing by 80% over 2005 in the first quarter to 53.7 MWp (Q1 2005: 29.9 MWp). Anton Milner, CEO of Q-Cells, said upon publication of the quarterly figures, "A secure supply of silicon, fast-growing demand on the world markets and continuous advancement of our technology and production processes will enable very good performance in 2006." The company at present expects to increase production to approximately 255 MWp, leading to sales of approximately €480 million.
After completing production line IV, Q-Cells AG will create additional production capacities by expanding and optimizing lines I-IV. This should increase production capacity to 336 MWp by the end of 2006. For 2007, actual production should increase from 255 MWp to 316 MWp.
This expansion of production capacities is made possible by a contracted and secured supply of silicon and silicon wafers. Q-Cells AG has already contracted for wafer and silicon supplies for a total capacity of 256 MWp in 2006. A foundation for continued growth in the following years has also been established: Delivery quantities of 298 MWp have been secured for 2007, 389 MWp for 2008 and 1,178 MWp for 2009-2016, and negotiations for additional quantities are underway.
According to SustainableBusiness.com, Australian silicon manufacturer Prime Solar is setting up a €425-million, 680-megawatt-capacity silicon plant in Germany and has agreed to supply Q-Cells with up to 100 percent of its wafer production for 10 years.
CSG Solar AG and EverQ GmbH, both located in Thalheim, will start production as planned in 2006. Q-Cells has stakes of 23% and 21%, respectively, in these companies. EverQ uses Evergreens string ribbon technology which prduces twice as many cells per pound than conventional technology. EverQ has built a 30Wp production facility that produced its first module at the end of February 2006 and is expected to reach full production capacity by the end of the first half. Company shareholders will decide on construction of a second production line in the third quarter at the latest. In November 2005, Renewable Energy Corporation (REC), a silicon producer, joined Evergreen Solar and Q-Cells in this joint venture. REC has agreed to provide Evergreen Solar and EverQ with the supply they need to facilitate its current capacity expansion. They expect to sign additional contracts to secure their longer-term supply needs.
CSG is currently building a ~25Wp production facility for thin film solar cells using ~1% of the silicon that is used in Q-cells main product line. The first module and the start of production is anticipated for the second quarter. They expected to decide on construction of the next factory by the end of the third quarter.
Average cell thickness has been reduced from 330-300 μm in 2003 to 200 μm currently. Trial production is now being conducted at 160 μm with 130 μm cells being produced in the laboratory. Production cell efficiencies are running at 14.8 – 15.6% with a potential efficiency of 18% being expected.
In addition to its current activities they will invest in four central development projects in fiscal 2006. These investments will involve development of a new generation of silicon-wafer-based, high capacity solar cells and commercialization of various thin-film technologies. By the end of 2006, the R&D department is expected to increase from the current 57 scientists to nearly 100.
They expect sales volume in 2006 to be ~ €480 up 60% over 2005. Details of their financial performance can be found in their Annual Press Conference presentation.
With their conventional polycrystalline technology and access to Evergreen's string ribbon technology and CSG's thin-film technology Q-Cells is in a good position to expand capacity no matter which way the silicon PV market indicates.
Q-Cells continues on growth course in first quarter of 2006, Press Release, April 19, 2006
Q-Cells AG, Thalheim, Germany