Calyxo GmbH - a manufacturer that convinces with cost savings and low CO2 emissions.
The three patent certificates posted in the entrance to the company Calyxo GmbH in Thalheim, a suburb of Bitterfeld-Wolfen, which has made a name for itself as the Solar Valley of Saxony-Anhalt, shine in golden like the sun. The crisis in the solar industry didn't see Calyxo scaling back its operations like so many others. On the contrary: the company that began its manufacturing operations six years ago with just four employees now has 175 - and is selling its products to customers all over the world. Calyxo will be attending the Intersolar Europe from 22nd until 24th June 2016 in Munich, where it will be presenting itself at the joint stand of the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt.
Reinforced concrete, frugally furnished rooms - and even the executive offices are rather ordinary. The large white and green Calyxo lettering on the facade is more eye-catching, however, and those who venture as far as the small reception area will also notice the golden patent certificates which are a counterpoint to the sober decorations. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, however - and the positive mood in the company, which is only around ten years old, is plainly evident. And positivity is a key requirement for any company that has to survive in the hard-fought market for solar modules.
Unique: thin film procedure without vacuum
Calyxo benefits from the fact that the company can manufacture more economically with its technology and that its module can perform better under certain conditions. "We use cadmium telluride technology and have developed a process with which we can manufacture under normal pressure ratios," explains Dr. Florian Holzapfel. The managing director is especially enthusiastic when he explains the advantages compared with the conventional thin film process that takes place under vacuum conditions. "We use nitrogen as the carrier gas and 'blow' the cadmium telluride, which is heated to 1,000 degrees, onto the glass, which is only heated to 600 degrees. The cadmium telluride condenses immediately due to the considerable temperature difference."
Calyxo holds a patent for this deposition process under atmospheric pressure. "It is around one third cheaper than purchasing the systems for the vacuum technology, and the continuous production process requires less energy. This saves us costs and leads to lower CO2 emissions," he explains, clarifying that Calyxo not only wants to earn money from environmentally-friendly technology, but is also completely dedicated to it. Calyxo is the only company in the world to use this technology.
Solar Fields LLC developed the use of cadmium telluride (CdTe) for the manufacturing of the photovoltaic modules instead of silicone some twelve years ago. A short while later, Calyxo was founded by Q-Cells and obtained the licence. Solar Fields then acquired all of the shares in Q-Cells. Around ten years ago, Calyxo constructed a test production line. With the company First Solar of the USA, which is the market leader in the sector, Calyxo of Saxony-Anhalt is the only manufacturer of solar modules with CdTe.
This is a maxim at the company that remains relevant to this day. "We manufacture our coating systems ourselves and only buy the basic components for them," explains Dr. Florian Holzapfel almost casually. The production line was extended in 2007 and Calyxo delivered its first modules two years later. By 2013 the company was running at full capacity. The second production line was built with financial support from the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt.
Most of the work is completed by machines and robots which move the panels back and forth, shift them from one process to the next, or cut them to size. Despite this, human resources are also vital - whether it is the manufacturing, the research, the sales or the administration. The staff aren't only from Bitterfeld-Wolfen and its surrounding area, but come from several different countries. The research department is where the company is at its most international. English is the second company language, especially since Calyxo has a branch in the USA which is home to three researchers. And although the company is technology focused, around a quarter of its employees are women. "That's quite a high proportion in this sector," opines Dr. Florian Holzapfel.
Manufacturing with a sound judgement
The fate of Q-Cells, which collapsed into insolvency due to the sales crisis with solar modules, acts as a warning for the managing directors of Calyxo, Dr. Florian Holzapfel and Dr. Eng. Michael Bauer. The company exercises sound judgement with its manufacturing and only manufactures for confirmed buyers. It doesn't manufacture for stock. This approach enabled Calyxo to survive the financial crisis without having to make any redundancies.
Calyxo is now positioned very strongly in the market - and the company boasts some spectacular projects, including a skyscraper in Beirut which is equipped with the modules and the parliament building in Belfast, for example. "Our technology is of particular interest in hot climates because our modules are more efficient than crystalline products are at high temperatures. When the sun shines on the glass, it rapidly increases to 60 degrees or more, which means its performance falls. We can keep this reduction in performance lower than our competitors can," explains Dr. Florian Holzapfel. Due to the relatively low energy consumption during the manufacturing under atmospheric pressure and the higher performance during the warming of the panels, it only takes around a year until a module produces the same amount of electricity that was required for its manufacturing.
Calyxo is now delivering its modules to customers on every continent apart from South America. The employees have set themselves the goal of forging contacts with customers in 40 different countries. And even though the mirrored tower in Beirut is an attractive reference property, the company manufactures three quarters of its photovoltaic modules for outdoor installations, while around one fifth generate electricity on roofs and facades. One of the consistently expanding areas of business is the retrofitting and conversion of current systems made by other manufacturers, "when they don't perform as expected," says Holzapfel with a smile.
Gaining new customers
The company gains new customers through direct marketing, through recommendations, and in particular by attending trade fairs: from 22nd until 24th June 2016 it will be once again attending the Intersolar Europe in Munich. "We are very pleased that we will be present on the shared stand for Saxony-Anhalt. In recent years, this has turned out to be extremely helpful and beneficial. Our customers know where to find us. We can present ourselves in a prestigious setting and at an affordable financial cost. I reckon we can secure up to 200 initial orders. We'll have to see how many are confirmed," says Dr. Florian Holzapfel, who is looking forward to a challenging but hopefully successful trade fair. Other trade fairs hadn’t turned out to be so helpful. The sector is now focusing on the Intersolar.
It is possible that the company's team of nearly 40 researchers and developers won't be finished with developing a new, higher performing module in time for the trade fair. They are nonetheless hard at work, testing and tinkering in order to optimise the processes and to make the company itself more efficient. Calyxo's confidence in its product is proven by the performance warranty of ten years that it offers on the materials and processing as well as 90 percent of the nominal output and a further 15 years on 80 percent of the nominal output. The modules can also be completely recycled. More proof of the company's concern for sustainability and its sparing use of resources.
Author: Renate Wähnelt
Photo caption: Manufacturing at Calyxo. The manufacturing of the reflective black glass panels which convert the sunlight into electricity is almost completely automatic. Sometimes, however, the Calyxo employees have to intervene by hand so that the solar modules can be manufactured as requested. (Copyright: Calyxo)
>HERE you find all information about the joint stand of the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt at Intersolar Europe 2016 at Hall A3 booth 470.