Largest U.S. solar manufacturer calls 2014 ‘a year of milestones’ as shipping surges 

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, March 30, 2015

SolarWorld AG, the United States’ largest solar manufacturer, said this week it nearly doubled shipments of modules from its primary U.S. manufacturing facility in 2014, while globally the company boosted shipments by 55 percent, from 548 units in 2013 to 849 units last year.

Executives of the Bonn, Germany-based energy conglomerate, whose U.S. subsidiary is based in Hillsboro, Ore., attributed the strong performance to financial restructuring; the successful acquisition of cell and module manufacturing units of Bosch Solar Energy AG; and strong solar markets in the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Japan.

In Germany, where solar markets have shrunk with the cancellation of generous feed-in tariffs for renewable energy, SolarWorld said it still “registered gains in its core business, the sale of modules and kits without large-scale turnkey projects.”

“2014 was a year of milestones,” SolarWorld Chief Executive Officer Frank Asbeck said in a statement announcing the company’s performance metrics. “In a short period of time, we have made considerable progress in sustainably leading the group back to the path of growth and profitability.”

Strong growth continues in 2015

SolarWorld, like other major European and U.S. solar manufacturers, has weathered a series of difficult years as low-cost Chinese competitors have captured a larger share of the global solar market, cutting deeply into Western firms’ profit margins.

For 2014, SolarWorld reported a 26 percent increase in revenue, from €456 million in 2013 to €573 million last year. Earnings before taxes grew to €574 million last year, up from €265 million in 2013. As of Dec. 31, SolarWorld’s liquid funds were estimated at €177 million, compared with €164 million one year prior. One euro is currently equivalent to $1.09.

Looking forward, SolarWorld said it expects to ship more than 1 gigawatt of solar modules from its global operations in 2015, with consolidated revenue expected to pass €700 million. Shipments in the first quarter of 2015 were up by more than 30 percent compared with the first quarter of 2013, officials said.

The company also said it would increase manufacturing capacity at its production sites in Europe and the United States, with a goal of producing 1.6 GW of photovoltaic cells and panels using a new high-efficiency manufacturing process called “passivated emitter rear cell.”

In major markets like the United States, Europe and Japan, SolarWorld said it would seek to grow in 2015 via “rising production capacities, technological progress, forward-looking system solutions, domestic presences and close ties to customers.”