Image Credits Ansvar2030 | Visual for illustration purpose
4 minutes read

Photovoltaic power plant with one gigawatt planned for Central Saxony region

The project is to be implemented at “Central Saxony speed”, which is being pushed forward aggressively by Freiberg district administrator Dirk Neubauer. The climate protection company Ansvar2030 and District Energy want to use solar power to enable all 300,000 residents of the Central Saxony region to live a completely emission-free life.

“Nothing is final.” With these words, Freiberg district administrator Dirk Neubauer (independent) introduced a LinkedIn post that had a lot to offer. The politician wants to prevent the solar industry from ending again in his region. He reacted to the announcement that all 500 Meyer Burger employees at the modular plant in Freiberg had been laid off . Around 400 people could soon be on the street, the rest could be deployed in other areas of the photovoltaic company. A deja vu for many, because years ago, after the second bankruptcy, Solarworld had to lay off all of its employees at the Freiberg location and close production. 

But what does Neubauer plan to do? He announced that he wanted to build a photovoltaic power plant with one gigawatt of output in his district. The project is expected to cost around 700 million euros and, on the one hand, ensure Meyer Burger’s survival in Germany and, on the other hand, bring 30 million euros into the district’s coffers every year. “ Whether municipalities, citizens, the district and the economy can benefit from it. We all decide that. If we want it, this would be the largest economic development program in the region’s history. It is possible ,” as Neubauer writes in his post. 

But if the project for which Meyer Burger is supposed to supply its heterojunction solar modules still wants to be saved, things have to happen quickly. “We need a new Central Saxony speed,” says Felix Rodenjohann, referring to the “Germany speed,” which does not yet exist, but which is being discussed a lot. Rodenjohann is CEO of Ansvar2030 , a strategy and implementation consultancy for municipal climate protection, which is involved in project development with the company District Energy . 

Offer for emission-free living to everyone in Central Saxony

Ansvar2030 wants to offer everyone in Central Saxony, which has around 300,000 inhabitants, an offer for an emission-free life. The solar power from the gigawatt project will be used to supply people in the region with clean electricity in order to simultaneously operate the heat pumps and charging stations  

To achieve this, cities and villages should be divided into “all-electric districts,” as Rodenjohann calls it. Through sector coupling and optimized operation of the solar park, the additional costs for the Meyer Burger solar modules in the project are to be recouped. Or, says Rodenjohann, they are no longer as important in such a large project, which includes not only electricity supply but also the heat and transport sectors. The entire project will be financed with the support of regional and external banks. 

For the required areas of the gigawatt solar park, Ansvar2030 needs politics, i.e. the district administrator of Freiberg. After Neubauer’s first statements about the planned project, offers had already been made for a three-digit hectare of land. Neubauer wants to present more details publicly at the end of the week. “Then it could grow into the four-digit range,” says Rodenjohann. A photovoltaic power plant with one gigawatt of output requires – roughly speaking – almost 1,000 hectares of land. According to Rodenjohann, space is actually not a problem in Central Saxony. There is a lot of free space there and few renewable energy systems have been built yet.

Modification of module production necessary

The other question, however, is: Can Meyer Burger supply the required modules? Here too, Rodenjohann, who accompanied the photovoltaic manufacturer’s factory openings in Thalheim and Freiberg in 2021, is optimistic. The production facilities are still in place in the Saxon factory. They could be started up again and would have to be converted to the production of solar modules for ground-mounted systems. However, this is easily feasible because Meyer Burger has relied on the production of these modules in the USA from the start and is currently building its factory in Goodyear there. According to Rodenjohann, production in Freiberg could have an annual production capacity of 500 megawatts after the conversion and could be increased to 750 megawatts next year. 

This would ensure that the production of the required solar modules fits well into the project schedule. However, only if “Central Saxony speed” really occurs. Approvals for systems of this size can take years. “Whether we all want it enough remains to be seen. The only thing that is certain is that if we don’t try, this will be final. We have it in our hands,” Neubauer wrote on Linkedin. 

Felix Rodenjohann definitely wants to. He would like to prevent complete dependence on China for the supply of solar modules. With his concept for a CO2-neutral life for everyone in the region, he believes he can also get the citizens in the region excited about the project. The key to this is solving the heat problem, he says. And we achieve this by installing heat pumps that are powered by cheap solar power. 

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