It was the beginning of December when German collector manufacturer Schüco International KG officially announced to close its collector factory in the German town of Bielefeld in North Rhine-Westphalia. The announcement ended the speculations that had already circulated among German industry players since summer 2012. At the beginning of August, the company had stated to lay off 475 of its solar department employees in the photovoltaics and solar thermal field. Back then, Schüco had been planning to close down the two plants manufacturing thin-film PV modules in the eastern part of Germany, but nothing had been said – officially – about the Bielefeld plant.
“The decision to also close down the collector production was made during the last weeks,” Thomas Lauritzen, Schüco’s Corporate Spokesperson, said. Between 2008 and 2012, the factory’s production output divided in half. “If you have a highly automated factory as we do and your production capacity is only used to a minimum degree, continuing the production is no viable option,” Lauritzen explained the reason for the decision. The spokesperson confirmed that the company would continue to offer solar thermal systems, but only with OEM components. The collector factory will most probably close at the end of March 2013. “We are looking for an investor who can take over the entire plant. We could also imagine organising a public bidding as we have done recently with the PV thin-film production units.”
Schüco Group is a global corporation, which had around 5,000 employees and a turnover of EUR 2.23 billion in 2011. The company’s core business is manufacturing windows, doors and facades. Schüco has had its solar division since 1999. Seven hundred people had still found a job in this division at the beginning of this year. This number will shrink to 225 employees in the solar business until next spring.
In 2007, Schüco created the corporate model of Energy² – use the facade to save and generate energy – and launched a massive advertisement campaign for it on TV. In Germany’s renewable boom year of 2010, the company reached a turnover of EUR 1 billion in its solar division, including solar thermal and photovoltaics. The extremely dwindling prices of PV modules in combination with decreasing demand led to Schüco’s decision of closing down the PV manufacturing plants this year. The German solar thermal market has also not picked up as expected: Instead of this year’s 10 % plus in newly installed collector area estimated by the industry associations in March 2012, the sector is now more likely to reach minus 5% compared to the also weak year of 2011.