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.
The 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.