Prof. Dr. Ralf B. Wehrspohn: New energy from Central Germany

And the winner is: photovoltaics in Cen­­tral Germany! In the top cluster competition sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the tri-state “Solarvalley Mit­­tel­­deutsch­­land” (So­­lar Val­­ley Central Germany) initiative was the winner. Within this cluster, 29 com­­­panies and 14 research centres from the states of Saxony, Saxony-An­halt and Thurin­gia work together on a cooperative basis. This tri-state combination is an im­­portant statement for the future of the German voltaics industry, which was underlined impressively by winning the tender and the related subsidy of 40 million euros. The aim of “So­­larvalley Mit­tel­deutsch­­land”, which developed from the cluster, is to be able to offer solar-based power to consumers in Germany at the same prices as power obtained from conventional sources by 2015. At “Solar­valley Mittel­deutsch­land”, regional activities are concentrated within the solar in­­dus­­try. There, all the companies in­­volved in photovoltaics along the entire value-added chain – from the raw material silicon to integrated pho­­tovoltaic systems – are involved with their own research projects. Compa­nies in the photovoltaic industry which are involved in the scheme include fa­­mous companies such as Q-Cells, ersol, PV Crys­­talox Solar AG, Roth&Rau, So­­lar­World, sun­­ways, Wacker Schott So­­lar and von Ar­­den­­­ne. Apart from the Fraunhofer Centre for Silicon Pho­­to­­voltaics CSP in Halle, other members of the scientif­ic community include research centres and uni­­­versities in Halle, Erfurt and Dres­­den.


Over the last few years, Central Germany has become one of the most im­­portant photovoltaics locations and to­­­day occupies a top position in an international ranking. Meanwhile 18 per cent of all solar cells produced in the world come from Central Germany, which makes up almost 90 per cent of Germany’s pro­­­duction. All photovoltaic technologies cur­rently on the market are developed or used by companies which are based in Central Germany. This concentration of companies and research centres is indeed unique. In the industry, which is growing at an annual rate of up to 50 per cent, there are al­­rea­­dy several thousand people employed in the eastern German states of Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thu­­ringia. This has created ideal con­­ditions for further com­­pany relocations to this region and ra­­pid growth in the industry. “Solarvalley Mittel­deutsch­land” intends to further increase its lead and develop new markets through large-scale production of innovative solar power sys­­tems.
Market dynamics are not to be underes­­ti­­mated and the worldwide spread of new photovoltaic technologies is taking place rapidly. From that perspective it is important, that not alone central Ger­many is in the focus as a manufacturing location. In order to keep up with international competitors, re­­search and development are of crucial importance. For this reason, joint R&D projects designed to maintain eastern Germany’s scientific and technological lead over foreign competitors are being forced ahead. In this context, Fraun­ho­fer Centre for Silicon Photovoltaics CSP is the largest re­­search partner involved in the cluster, and re­­search and development into silicon material are being carried out at the unique Crystallisation and Material Analysis Centre. The initiators of the re­­search centre based in Saxony-An­­halt are the Fraun­­ho­­fer Insti­­tute for Ma­­terial Mechanics IWM and the Fraun­­­­ho­­fer Institute for Solar Energy Sys­­­t­­e­ms ISE. The Centre will offer research services for the regional solar-power companies and will set up the link with industry and the other research centres in the region. At the weinberg cam­­­­pus location in Halle, a new research building for research into the fields of crys­tallization and material characterization will be completed by late 2010, and a module ­tech­­no­­logy centre will be completed in the Dow ValuePark® in Schko­­pau by late 2009.


What is also important is the creation of a regional structure for careers train­­­­ing for highly qualified engineers and sci­­­entists. This is why the vocational train­­­­ing cluster is also integrated into the top-level cluster. To ensure a sufficient number of new recruits of some 40 per cent annually, short-term measures for advanced training and mid-term measures for initial careers training are necessary in So­­lar­­­ Val­­ley. Various measures such as the dual ba­­che­­lor’s degree course in “Solar Tech­­no­lo­­gy” at the Anhalt-University of Applied Sciences, the master’s degree course in “Pho­­to­­vol­­taics” as a part of the physics section at the Mar­­tin Luther Uni­­versity in Halle, or the more vocational advanced training course for engineers and scientists “Fit for Solar Technology” are co­­or­dinated by the “So­­­lar­­valley Mittel­deutschland” society.



Prof.-Ralf-BThe author was called to Halle by both the MLU and the Fraun­­­­hofer Society. As the Fraun­­­­hofer Society’s youngest institute head, he has headed the Fraunhofer IWM in Halle since 2006. At the MLU he is professor of microstructure – based ma­­te­ri­al d­­esign and has been awarded several international prizes for his work.