Solar pioneer leaves germany: solon closes down

Founded in Kreuzberg in 1996, the Berlin site must now close. 230 employees are fired, headquarters relocated.

230 of them lose their jobs: Solon employees in 2011. photo: reuters

And once again, there is one less solar company in Germany: The local solar pioneer Solon is closing its headquarters in Berlin and moving its headquarters to the United Arab Emirates. The company already manufactures the majority of its Solon brand solar modules there. 230 employees in Berlin are affected by the photovoltaic manufacturer’s withdrawal from Germany.

From the company’s point of view, however, this step is only logical. After Solon had to file for insolvency in December 2011 due to the rapid reduction of subsidies in Germany, the Indian-Arab consortium Microsol took over the company together with its plant in Berlin, the trademark rights and research and development. In recent months, production in Berlin has been limited; however, a company spokesperson denied reports that production at the Adlershof site had been completely suspended since the fall.

Solon’s withdrawal is another symbol of the decline of a once celebrated high-tech industry in Germany. Together with the Freiburg-based Solar-Fabrik, Solon was one of the very early pioneers – even before the solar boom really took off with the Renewable Energy Sources Act in 2000.

The company had already been founded in November 1996 in Berlin-Kreuzberg, among others by the company Wuseltronik, which built inverters with the slogan "Atomkraft – nein danke" (nuclear power – no thanks) etched on their circuit board at the beginning. In 1998, Solon went public, making it the first listed solar technology company in Germany.

Once 800 million euros in sales

In the course of the domestic solar boom, Solon also grew and in 2008 had a turnover of more than 800 million euros with almost 1000 employees. In the meantime, the company had established subsidiaries in France, Italy and the USA and moved into a spectacular new building in Berlin-Adlershof.

The now announced withdrawal of production and in the end also of the company headquarters from Germany is not surprising for insiders. When, especially in 2012, numerous foreign companies – many of them from Asia – bought into the crisis-ridden German technology leaders in the solar industry, it was already clear that the buyers were primarily interested in patents and manufacturing know-how.

All demands on the state to ensure that the patents of the crisis-ridden solar companies remain in Germany went unheard. There were already very concrete ideas on the table, such as a rescue company that could be provided with money by the Federal Republic of Germany or a development bank – such as KfW – and acquire the crucial patents.

In the case of Solon, only a plant of the partner ML&S in Greifswald will continue to produce modules in Germany on behalf of the Indian-Arab consortium. Most solar modules, however, are manufactured in the United Arab Emirates, where a factory with an annual capacity of 300 megawatts has been built. "This enables us to meet the cost expectations of our customers," the company let it be known.

And, as Solon CEO Anjan Turlapati explained, these are mainly in Asia and North Africa. The entire European markets are to be served by only one European sales company, which will also supply North Africa.

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