Posted on September 13, 2022, 2:57 pmUpdated on September 13, 2022 at 3:09 pm
Another significant step for Carbon, the industrial start-up that aims to create one of the largest European “giga-factories” of solar panels in 2025. This week, the young company located in Roche-la-Molière (Loire) announced the arrival at its capital of the French company ECM (150 million euros in turnover), a leading manufacturer of low-carbon silicon wafers, essential raw material for the development of photovoltaic cells.
The ECM industrial group thus retains 20% of the capital of Carbon, an operation financed with its own capital, for an undisclosed amount. He joins in equal shares with the other four reference shareholders, who are the creator of Terre et Lac solar plants, advanced industrial parts manufacturer ACI Groupe, Pascal Richard, president of the start-up and entrepreneur, whose name remains confidential.
Raise several tens of millions of euros in 2023
“This new economic partnership allows us to accelerate towards our next objective: an initial fundraising of tens of millions of euros in the first quarter of 2023”, explains the president of Carbon, who has spent his entire career in photovoltaics, in particular at head of the German SMA-Solar.
The technological expertise of ECM – supplier to several Chinese and South Korean leaders in solar panels – reinforces the other objective of Carbon, which is to house all the know-how in its area, from the manufacture of silicon wafers, to the final construction. of the panels. “It is absolutely necessary to recreate the photovoltaic sector in France”, specifies Pascal Richard.
Put France back at the center of the global solar industry
The young sprout born in March 2022 sees his future very big: in 2030, he plans to open a giant factory capable of producing the annual equivalent of 20 gigawatts of solar panels, that is, almost half of the installed power in Europe. during the year 2021. With the key, 10,000 jobs.
“To achieve this, we need to raise 5-6 billion euros in total, which is colossal,” adds the president of Carbon. In addition to the capital contribution, bank debt is expected to be raised, as well as public financial support from France and Europe. In addition, the start-up plans to apply for the third call for projects from the European Innovation Fund, which has already benefited its counterpart Enel.
Today, it is cheaper to produce solar panels in Europe than in China. We must seize this opportunity.
Pascal Richard President of Carbon
Before this final phase, Carbon will go through different stages. The first will be the opening of a first pilot installation of 300 megawatts in the last quarter of 2023. “It will also open a photovoltaic training school and an applied research center”, indicates its co-founder. The second stage should take shape in 2025, with an industrial unit capable of producing 5 GW and employing 3,000 people.
A promising but full of pitfalls
But putting France back at the center of the global solar market – of which nine of the top ten manufacturers are Chinese or South Korean – is far from easy. Carbon President’s Response: “That’s why we have to play to our strengths. In Europe we have the best minds to innovate in this technology and there are many producers of electronic grade silicon. This resource is available everywhere on Earth for that matter. Which makes it cheaper to produce solar panels here today than in China. The tide is turning in this market. You can enter this new window. »
Before Carbon, other European players had this ambition, only to revise it downwards. In France, giant EDF would consider selling off its subsidiary Photowatt, which is not taking off. In Italy, Enel wants to increase its solar capacity from 200 MW to 3 GW by 2024, but this has not materialized so far. The only light in this tunnel: Indian Rec Solar won a European subsidy of around €100m in early July for a 4GW assembly plant in France near Sarreguemines.
According to a recent barometer from the Observatory of Renewable Energy, the electricity produced by the solar sector reached almost 14.3 TWh in 2021, an increase of 12.6% compared to 2020. For the first time, solar production covered 3% of the French total electricity consumption (compared to 2.8% in 2020).