European solar manufacturers will need 42 times more annual photovoltaic cell production capacity if the high ambitions of the European Commission are to be met with Made in Europe products. US research firm Wood Mackenzie released the figure this week to illustrate just how shredded the European solar manufacturing industry is.

The commission has declared its ambition to generate at least 420 GW of new solar generation capacity this decade, in a bid to wean the bloc from Russian gas. WoodMac has estimated that Europe will supply around 331 GW of new solar by 2031 and said this week that the commission’s ‘RePower EU’ plans could potentially double that figure.

However, the Edinburgh-based research firm pointed out that “virtually all” of the 60,000 kilotonnes of polysilicon solar panel feedstock that Wacker Chemie produces each year is exported to China as there is insufficient demand in Europe. Keeping Wacker’s product in Europe would require 10 times the nearby ingot and wafer production capacity, 21 times the cell production lines and three times the solar module capacity, WoodMac estimated.

He said that to achieve the ambition raised by the commission would require three times the annual polysilicon production capacity, 20 times the wafer lines, 42 times the cell production and six times the module capacity. . Solar panel raw material costs have driven panel prices up more than 20% in 2021, according to WoodMac. He said the price of polysilicon has tripled in the past 18 months and is expected to remain “high” through 2022.

Aluminum, copper and steel prices have all risen more than 30% over the past year, according to WoodMac. The cost of glass for solar panels is also rising, he said, attributing the increases to rising natural gas and tin prices.

The commission’s plans to reduce reliance on direct Russian gas supplies could be helped, ironically, if rising gas prices driving solar glass costs are partly mitigated by Russia following through. recently announced commitments to transfer euro supply agreements to China.

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