Australia could have a new high-end rooftop solar panel on the market as early as October, with deliveries kicking off of in Europe of the German-made module of solar electrification group 1komma5°.
1komma5°, which last year brought its one-stop solar electrification shop to Australia, earlier this year revealed plans to start manufacturing its own panel components in Europe to combat supply chain, sustainability, and ethical concerns.
This week, 1komma5° global CEO Philipp Schröder announced on LinkedIn that deliveries of the 415W module had started, first in Europe and then to Australia, where 1komma5° set up shop late last year after taking a controlling stake in NSW-based PV and battery outfit Natural Solar.
“Latest highend TOPCon technology, designed by our awesome team, 25 years warranty … and with high performance, clean polysilicon from Wacker produced in Germany – made for Europe and Australia!” Schröder says.
Chris Williams, the founding CEO of Natural Solar and head of 1komma5° in Australia, says there’s no set date yet on when the panels will land in Australia, but it’s looking likely to be some time in the final quarter of the calendar year.
He says the “beautiful,” full-black rooftop modules – pictured above – will sit somewhere at the higher end of the price spectrum on the Australian market, partly due to how and where they are made.
“By making the polysilicon in Germany, that’s a very significant point of difference that we believe that our customers are asking for,” Williams tells One Step Off The Grid.
“We see firsthand with business that there’s a huge shift towards panels that have a higher threshold for modern slavery.
“It’s happening at a very quick rate of knots – and I think that is also spilling over into the residential market.
“We’ve got the opportunity as a group, globally, to influence supply chains and to basically have a very positive influence on where the polysilicon is mined and how it is procured, how it is manufactured, which …also offsets a lot of that supply chain risk that we’re seeing,” he says.
As One Step Off The Grid sister site RenewEconomy has reported, China is by far the biggest manufacturer of solar panels and solar energy components, accounting for 80% of the total market.
But China’s domination of the solar supply chain is becoming a major cause for concern – particularly as global demand for panels ramps up exponentially – for being logistically, environmentally and ethically unsustainable.
December 2022, the US-based Breakthrough Institute published a report that alleged polysilicon – the key ingredient in a solar panel – was being manufactured using the forced labour of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, China.
A July 2022 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) also highlighted environmental concerns, noting that in China, the energy-intensive conversion process that turns raw silicon into polysilicon is largely powered by coal.
Williams believes Australian consumers are increasingly taking these sort of considerations into account when deciding on which panels to put on their rooftops, and will increasingly go with higher quality and ethically sourced products.
“It’s not just a solar panel that’s just x watts and produces x kilowatts-hours,” he tells One Step.
“It really is more of a deep dive into … how does it operate? Who is it backed by? Where is it made? I think that’s why [Australia] is always a great market. We look forward to getting [the new module] on roofs in the next few months.”