It is almost like being born again: all smiles, Ki-Joon Hong, Vice President of Korean firm Hanwha and Minister President of Saxony-Anhalt Dr. Reiner Haseloff cut through the ribbon and thereby clear the way for the start of a brand new, global solar company. In the future, Hanwha Q.Cells will still be managed from its head office in Bitterfeld-Wolfen yet it is now part of a global corporation which is apparently number three in the solar sector. What isn't changing is the leading role in technology occupied by Q.Cells in recent years, especially in the area of mono-crystal cells. And this is set for further growth, not least with the financial strength of the Koreans.
Looking back: when the company Q.Cells began operations in its first new building in the town of Thalheim near Bitterfeld ten years ago, the region's economic prospects seemed brighter than ever before. It wasn't only the chemicals park that was attracting new companies, a new Solar Valley also began growing there. Within a few years the start-up had turned into something of a business empire with a research centre, a factory in Malaysia and ambitions to float on the German stock market (DAX) in the near future.
Yet this golden age almost ended in tears, since from 2008 onwards, the world markets began to be flooded with increasing quantities of cheap products made in China. Having secured long term contracts, Q-Cells had acquired large quantities of purest silicon, a very scare raw material, for use in its solar cells. Had the company achieved a breakthrough in the construction of solar power plants in the USA it would have meant a sunny future for the Bitterfeld company. Instead, Q-Cells - like many other solar companies - suddenly found itself in a crisis and facing insolvency. A difficult period of restructuring dragged on for months on end, transfer companies were established and partners and buyers sought world-wide.
Since mid-October, however, the future of Thalheim has been assured, with the takeover of Q.Cells by Korean conglomerate Hanwha. Ki-Joon Hong and the new CEO of Hanwha Q.Cells, Charles Kim travelled to Bitterfeld from the Far East to celebrate the start of the new company. They were able to assure the 750 employees that the development centre will stay here in Germany in the future. "With its leading technology, Q.Cells fits into our company excellently. We will coordinate our global research work from this location and introduce quality standards for other products and plants as well," explained Ki-Joon Hong, vice President of Hanwha Chemical and CEO of Hanwha SolarOne in Seoul.
Q.Cells, home to the Reiner Lemoine Research Centre for over five years, was always more than just a manufacturing business. The specialists here have very strong levels of know-how in the field of development, so that the company has always been able to come up with innovations. Its latest product is a module with six inch sized cells and an output of 260 Watts, which attracted exceptional interest at the Intersolar. Hanwha sees considerable promise and intends to invest more money in Bitterfeld over the course of the future: the CEO ensures that 20 million Euros will be available each year for research and development in the solar sector. In addition to this, there is also the potential offered by universities and the Franuhofer Institute with whom Q.Cells has worked closely together in the past.
Author: Manfred Schulze