17 November 2011

Manz to acquire Würth’s CIGS PV module innovation line by early 2012

Manz AG of Reutlingen, Germany, which supplies integrated production lines for crystalline silicon solar cells and thin-film solar modules (as well as lines flat-panel displays), has signed a letter of intent to acquire the copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) solar module innovation line of Würth Solar GmbH & Co KG of Schwäbisch Hall. Manz plans to integrate Würth’s production site, and a total of 116 staff, into the Manz Group. “We are particularly pleased that we will bundle our know-how with that of the employees at the Schwäbisch Hall location,” comments CEO Dieter Manz.

The aim is to establish a factory focusing on the rapid further development of CIGS technology, which Manz says has the potential to deliver the lowest cost per watt compared to other technologies. The Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung Baden-Württemberg (Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research, ZSW) in Stuttgart will continue to support R&D activities. The takeover is expected to be concluded by early 2012.

Manz says that this step follows many years of cooperation. The line has been used to date both by Würth for CIGS module production, and by Manz as part of a licensing and co-operation agreement (concluded in 2010) for the development of CIGS system solutions. With the new agreement, the line is now intended to serve solely future R&D activities. This should allow development of the technology to be accelerated, and the cost-reduction and efficiency-enhancement potential of CIGS technology to be fully exploited, reckons Manz. The firm hence aims to contribute to quickly reducing cost per watt.

The agreement should also allow milestones that have been planned to date to be reached earlier than intended. These include the optimization of manufacturing processes, boosting efficiency, savings in terms of materials, and hence production cost reduction. Manz reckons that this will help it to offer global solar manufacturers an economically attractive production solution.

“Operating our own research line allows us to qualify our innovations directly in ongoing production operation,” says Dieter Manz. “By contrast with a conventional pilot line, our innovation line, with its capacity of up to 6MWp, will produce significantly more solar modules, which Würth Solar will continue to sell in the future,” he adds. “The agreement that we have now reached is the right response to the solar market’s requirements. We are firmly convinced that CIGS will prevail on the market in the medium term due to its high cost-reduction potential,” Manz continues. “Together with Würth and the ZSW, we have developed a world record module, entailing an aperture efficiency of 15.1% in production format, within a short period of time. We can further accelerate development and expand our advance in technology with the CIGS innovation line that we are creating.”

Manz is to acquire the Würth production site without incurring any further one-off costs. The CIGS technology licenses (including from the research co-operation venture with ZSW) will also transfer to Manz on an unrestricted basis. The technology licensing and cooperation agreement that was concluded in 2010 will be replaced when the new contract is concluded, dispensing with the second tranche agreed in the original contract (which would have been due when the first CIGSfab production line was sold). To offset this, Manz will adopt most of the ongoing costs for operation of the innovation line.

With this step, Würth Solar will focus entirely on its core competency of selling photovoltaic systems and components (including future sales of CIGS modules produced on the innovation line), as well as complete photovoltaic plants and turnkey solar power plants.

See related items:

Manz presents record 14%-efficient thin-film PV module at EU PVSEC

Manz awarded €3.8m for German project to boost efficiency and cut cost for CIGS PV

Tags: Manz Würth CIGS PV module CIGS

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