The market slump in Germany in 2010 brought problems for the solar thermal sector. Three examples show that the entire value chain is affected: From manufacturers to system suppliers and installers.
The Ritter Group, a German manufacturer of solar thermal systems and biomass boilers, suffered greatly from the decline on the German market. Compared to the boom year 2008, the company group experienced a 50 % drop in the sales of pellet boilers and a 30 % drop in the area of solar thermal systems in 2010. It meant that at the site at Dettenhausen, South Germany, 43 employees of the production companies Ritter Solar and RNO Kesselfabrik had to be laid off.
"For a long time, we have tried to improve the situation of the company in other ways. Unfortunately, the layoffs were unavoidable in the end,” René Reinhold, Chief Financial Officer of Ritter Group, explains. “All sacked employees received a severance payment, including an extra amount per child.” The Ritter Group has also offered a job application training to each of them and guarantees a preferred re-employment, in case the economic situation improves.
EU-wide operating solar thermal system supplier General Solar Systems (GSS) closed down his distribution centre for solar thermal systems and components in Ravensburg, in the south of Germany. All 32 employees, including General Manager Frank Görig, will be laid off by the end of March 2011 because of the market's double-digit decrease. Since the beginning of the year, the logistics and distribution services of the GSS group have been taken over by the company site in St. Veit, Austria. The sales team of former GSS Pro Solar, with 15 people in Ravensburg, was disbanded, too. “We will achieve synergies by incorporating the Pro Solar activities into our sales team services at GSS Germany in Regensburg and continue with a three-tier distribution channel,” Rainer Höfer, General Manager of GSS Germany, explains. Three former employees of Pro Solar accepted the offer and moved to Regensburg in the southeast of the country.
GSS also responds to the sales crisis with an extension of its product portfolio for the solar thermal sector: “We will add photovoltaic systems for single-family households to our range of products – in selected European countries,” Hubert Mattersdorfer, COO of GSS, announces.
Well-known installation company Soli-fer GmbH from Freiberg, which is located in the eastern part of Germany, has filed bankruptcy at the end of November 2010. “We have suffered from an order slump of almost 50 % after the incentives were stopped in April,” Timo Leukefeld, founder and Managing Director of Soli-fer, states. Moreover, the photovoltaic sector boomed last year, while heating costs stagnated.
Although the debts were only EUR 40,000, Leukefeld chose the court proceedings in the interest of his 31 employees. It was the right decision: The insolvency administrator chose to keep all business activities running. And, the customers showed solidarity with Soli-fer. “From the 38 orders in the books, 37 were re-confirmed by our customers,” confirms Leukefeld. After a three-month transition period, the insolvency proceedings started in the middle of February. In cooperation with Leukefeld, the insolvency administrator is now looking for an investor. “We cannot present names yet, but we are in serious talks with a plumber, a company of the housing industry and a green electricity provider,” confirms Leukefeld. He is optimistic about presenting the new future of Soli-fer in the coming months.